Tobago’s vibrant and colourful history has made it one of the most distinctive places in the Caribbean.
In 250 BC the First People tribes like the Saladoids entered Trinidad and moved north to other Caribbean Islands including Tobago. They populated the island for centuries.
Originally named ‘Tavaco’ by the First People, after the long-stemmed pipe they used to smoke tobacco, Tobago was a natural resource of wealth. Fertile soil, a wide variety of flora and fauna, the diverse terrain were some of the elements that made the island a prized gem for the Europeans.
Christopher Columbus first spotted Tobago while sailing from Trinidad in 1498 and other explorers soon followed. Over a period of 250 years, there were numerous upheavals during the quest for ownership by the Spanish, British, Courlanders (modern-day Latvia), French, Americans, and Dutch. From the late 15th century onward, no other West Indian island has been fought over by European powers with as much intensity than Tobago.
Later, large numbers of African slaves were brought to Tobago until the end of the slave trade in 1807, and were forced to work the lands, contributing to the island’s vast sugar cane, tobacco and cotton economies. These past occurrences have left an indelible mark on most of the economic, social, cultural and notable physical aspects of Tobago. Today, the diverse community of Tobagonians has blended the influences of the past that has created a unique heritage of its own.
Tobago's Historical Timeline
The First People
- (1000) Suazeys migrate to Tobago
- (1498) Christopher Columbus sights Tobago and names it Bellaforma
- (1540) The emergence of Cayoid pottery in Tobago
The Europeans Arrive
- 1596) James I, King of England, claims the island for Britain and later claims sovereignty
- (1614) Spanish merchants tried to establish trade with the island of Tobago.
- (1628) Jan de Moor, Burgomaster of Flushing sent a Dutch expedition to establish the settlement of New Walcheren (near present day Plymouth).
- (1637) British attempt to settle on the island but are ousted by the indigenous population; the Dutch also attempt but their settlement was destroyed by Indigenous forces
- (1642) The first sustained European settlement is made by the Courlanders (modern-day Latvia), occupying for 12 years until the Dutch settle in another part of the island.
- (1659) The Dutch take control of Tobago (1763) The Treaty of Paris is signed, confirming French cessation to the British
- (1768–9) The first Tobago Assembly is established; Scarborough is made island’s capital
- (1783) By the Treaty of Versailles Tobago was ceded to the French and Philbert de Blanchard became Governor
- (1793) Tobago is recaptured by the British who established a separate Government with its own Governor and British Crown appointed Legislative Council
- (1807) The slave trade is abolished by Britain
- (1814) The Treaty of Paris: France cedes Tobago to Britain
- (1833) Tobago ceases to have its own Government and become part of the Windward Islands
- (1834) The Emancipation of Slaves proclaimed and the beginning of the Apprenticeship period
Independence and Modern Day Tobago
- (1887) The Legislative Council of Tobago unanimously agrees to unite Tobago with Trinidad to form one colony, under one governor and the same code of law
- (1889) The two islands merge, officially becoming Trinidad & Tobago
- (1925) A new Trinidad and Tobago constitution establishes seven constituencies, one of which is Tobago
- (1926) Film classic Robinson Crusoe is filmed in Tobago
- (1940) The arrival of the Americans during World War II to establish bases in Trinidad and Tobago
- (1959-60) Swiss Family Robinson is filmed in Tobago
- (1962) Trinidad and Tobago gains Independence from Britain; Dr. Eric Williams becomes the country’s first Prime Minister
- (1963) Hurricane Flora, one of the deadliest hurricanes in the Atlantic, hits Tobago
- (1976) Trinidad and Tobago gains Republic status within the Commonwealth
- (1980) Tobago House of Assembly is created for more direct administration of its local affairs
- (1986) Tobago-born Arthur Napoleon Raymond (ANR) Robinson becomes the country’s third Prime Minister
- (1990) An attempted coup is led by Yasin Abu Abu Bakr who seizes the Parliament Building, bombs police headquarters and storms the national television and radio broadcasters; Prime Minister Robinson and members of his Cabinet are held hostage for six days and a state of emergency is later held
- (1991) Patrick Manning is elected as the fourth Prime Minister
- (1995) Trinidad-born Basdeo Panday becomes Prime Minister
- (1997) ANR Robinson is appointed Trinidad & Tobago’s third President
- (2003) George Maxwell Richards become the country’s fourth President
- (2006) Trinidad and Tobago qualifies for the FIFA World Cup for the first time, becoming the smallest nation ever to qualify for the tournament
- (2010) Kamla Persad-Bissessar makes history as the first elected female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
- (2011) The airport in Tobago was renamed the A. N. R. Robinson International Airport, replacing the name 'Crown Point International Airport
- (2015) Tobago-born Dr. Keith Rowley is elected the country’s seventh Prime Minister
- (2018) Paul-Mae Weekes makes history as the country’s first female President
- (2019) World-renowned calypsonian Calypso Rose performs at Coachella, making history as the festival’s oldest performer at 78