The Seychelles has been uninhabited for most of its recorded history. Some scholars speculate that Austrian sailors, and later Maldivian and Arab traders, may have been the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. The first recorded sighting by a European was that of Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through Amirantes in 1502 and gave the island his name (“Admiral’s Island”). The earliest recorded landing was made in January 1609 by the crew of the “Ascension” under Captain Sharpe during the fourth voyage of the British East India Company.
As a major trading center between Africa and Asia, it was occasionally exploited by pirates. The island was named after Jean Moreau de Seychelles, Louis XV’s finance minister.
The British took control of the island between 1794 and 1810, and during the war years with the British, the French administrator, Jean Baptiste Quaiot de Quincy, refused to resist the arrival of armed enemy warships. Instead, he successfully negotiated surrender status to Britain, giving the settlers a privileged position of neutrality.
Britain eventually took full control after the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, which was formalized in the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The Seychelles became a separate crown colony from Mauritius in 1903. Elections were held in 1966 and 1970.
In 1976, the country’s independence was recognized as a republic within the Commonwealth. In the 1970s, Seychelles was “the place to be seen, a playground for movie stars and the international jet set.” In 1977, the republic’s first president, James Mancham, was deposed in a coup d’état by Frenchman Albert René. René was discouraged by the over-reliance on tourism and declared that he wanted to maintain a “Seychelles for Seychellois.”
The 1979 constitution declared a one-party socialist state that lasted until 1991.
The 1980s saw a series of coups against President France-Albert René, some of which were supported by South Africa. In 1981, Mike Hoare led a team of 43 South African mercenaries posing as vacationing rugby players in a coup attempt known as the Seychelles Affair. A firefight ensued at the airport, and most of the mercenaries later escaped in a hijacked Air India plane. The leader of this hijacking was the notorious German mercenary D. Clodo, a former member of the Rhodesian SAS. Clodo later stood trial for air piracy in both South Africa (where he was acquitted) and his native Germany.
In 1986, an attempted coup led by Seychelles Defense Minister Ogilvy Berlouis prompted President René to ask India for help. In “Operation Flowers Are Blooming,” the Indian Navy ship INS Vindhyagiri arrives in Victoria harbor to avert a coup.
The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the required 60% of the electoral vote in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.
In January 2013, Seychelles declared a state of emergency; Tropical Cyclone Felleng caused torrential rains, and flooding and landslides destroyed hundreds of homes.