Introduction Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by shipwrecked English colonists headed for Virginia. Tourism to the island to escape North American winters first developed in Victorian times. Tourism continues to be important to the island's economy, although international business has overtaken it in recent years. Bermuda has developed into a highly successful offshore financial center. Although a referendum on independence from the UK was soundly defeated in 1995, the present government has reopened debate on the issue.

Bermuda was discovered by Europeans in the early 1500s, probably in 1503, according to some sources. It was certainly known by 1511, when Peter Martyr d'Anghiera published his Legatio Babylonica, which mentioned Bermuda, and the island was also included on Spanish charts of this year. The discovery is attributed to a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermúdez. Both Spanish and Portuguese ships used the islands as a replenishment spot for fresh meat and water, but legends of spirits and devils, now thought to have stemmed only from the callings of raucous birds (most likely the Bermuda Petrel, or Cahow), and of perpetual, storm-wracked conditions (most early visitors arrived under such conditions), kept them from attempting any permanent settlement on the Isle of Devils.

Bermúdez and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo ventured to Bermuda in 1514 or 1515 with the intention to drop off a breeding stock of hogs on the island as a future stock of fresh meat for passing ships. The inclement weather prevented them from landing however.

Some years later, a Portuguese ship on the way home from San Domingo wedged itself between two rocks on the reef. The crew tried to salvage as much as they could and spent the next four months building a new hull from Bermuda cedar to return to their initial departure point. One of these stranded sailors is most likely the person who carved the initials "R" and "P", "1543" into Spanish Rock. The initials probably stood for "Rex Portugaline" and later were incorrectly attributed to the Spanish, leading to the misnaming of this rocky outcrop of Bermuda.

For the next century, the island is believed to have been visited frequently but not permanently settled. The first two British colonies in Virginia had failed, and a more determined effort was initiated by King James I of England (and VI of Scotland), who granted a Royal Charter to The Virginia Company. In 1609, a flotilla of ships left England under the Company's Admiral, Sir George Somers, to relieve the colony of Jamestown, settled two years before. Somers had previous experience sailing with both Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. The flotilla was broken up by a storm, and the flagship, the Sea Venture, was wrecked off Bermuda (as depicted on the territory's Coat of Arms), leaving the survivors in possession of a new territory. (William Shakespeare's play The Tempest is thought to have been inspired by William Strachey's account of this shipwreck.) The island was claimed for the English Crown, and the charter of the Virginia Company was extended to include it. In 1615, the colony was passed to a new company, the Somers Isles Company (The Somers Isles remains an official name for the colony), formed by the same shareholders. The close ties with Virginia were commemorated even after Bermuda's separation by reference to the archipelago in many Virginian place names, such as Bermuda City, and Bermuda Hundred. The first British coins in America were struck here.

Most of the survivors of the Sea Venture had carried on to Jamestown in 1610 aboard two Bermuda-built ships. Among these was John Rolfe, who left a wife and child buried in Bermuda, but in Jamestown would marry Pocahontas, a daughter of Powhatan. Rolfe was also single-handedly responsible for beginning Virginia's tobacco industry (the economic basis of the colony had been intended to be lumber). Intentional settlement of Bermuda began with the arrival of the Plough, in 1612.

With its limited land area, Bermuda has had difficulty since then with its population growth. In the first two centuries of settlement, it relied on steady emigration to keep the population manageable. Before the American Revolution, more than ten thousand Bermudians emigrated, primarily to the American South, where Great Britain was displacing Spain as the dominant European imperial power. A steady trickle of outward migration continued as, by the end of the 18th century, with seafaring being the only real industry, at least a third of the island's manpower was at sea at any one time. This limited land area and resources led to the creation of what may have been the earliest conservation laws of the New World, when in 1616 and 1620 Acts were passed banning the hunting of certain birds and young tortoises[1]

In 1649, the English Civil War raged and King Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall, London. The execution resulted in the outbreak of a Bermudian Civil War; it was ended by embodied militias. This created a strong sense of devotion to the crown for the majority of colonists and it forced those who would not swear allegiance, such as Puritans and Independents, into exile in the Bahamas.[2]

In the 17th century, the Somers Isles Company suppressed shipbuilding as it needed Bermudians to farm if it were to generate income from the land. Agricultural production met with only limited success, however. The Bermuda cedar boxes used to ship tobacco to England were reportedly worth more than their contents.[citation needed] The colony of Virginia far surpassed Bermuda in both quality and quantity of tobacco produced. After the dissolution of the Somers Isle Company, Bermudians rapidly abandoned agriculture for shipbuilding, replanting farmland with the native juniper (Juniperus bermudiana, also called Bermuda cedar) trees that grew thickly over the whole island. Establishing effective control over the Turks Islands, Bermudians deforested their landscape to begin the salt trade that would become the world's largest, and remained the cornerstone of Bermuda's economy for the next century. Bermudian sailors would turn their hands to far more trades than supplying salt, however. Whaling, privateering, and the merchant trade were all pursued vigorously. The Bermuda sloop became highly regarded for its speed and manoeuvrability. In fact it was the Bermuda sloop HMS Pickle, one of the fastest vessels in the Royal Navy, that brought the news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Nelson back to England.

After the American Revolution, the Royal Navy began improving the harbours and built the large dockyard on Ireland Island, in the west of the chain, as its principal naval base guarding the western Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes. The British attacks that would result in the creation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" were planned and launched from Bermuda, the Royal Navy's 'North American Station'. It was here that the British soldiers assembled before being sent to attack Baltimore and Washington. In 1816, Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard was fortified against possible US attacks by James Arnold. Arnold was the son of famed US traitor Benedict Arnold.[3] Today, the "Maritime Museum" stands on the site of the Old Commissioner's House in the Royal Naval Dockyard and houses artifacts of the base's military history.

As a result of Bermuda's proximity to the southeastern U.S. coast, it was regularly used by Confederate States blockade runners during the American Civil War to evade Union naval vessels and bring desperately needed war goods to the South from England. The old Globe Hotel in St. George's, which was a centre of intrigue for Confederate agents, is preserved as a museum open to the public.

In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy American, Canadian and British tourists. In addition, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act enacted by the United States against its trading partners in 1930 cut off Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural export trade (primarily fresh vegetables to the US) spurring the overseas territory to develop its tourist industry, which is second behind international business in terms of economic importance to the island. In 1949, Henry Vassey, then Chairman of the Bermuda Trade Development Board, urged the House of Assembly of Bermuda to pursue a political union with Canada. Four Methodist Church congregations in Bermuda are part of The United Church of Canada, forming Bermuda Presbytery of the United Church's Maritime Conference headquartered in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

Geography Location: North America, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of South Carolina (US)
Geographic coordinates: 32 20 N, 64 45 W
Map references: North America
Area: total: 53.3 sq km
land: 53.3 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: about one-third the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 103 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: subtropical; mild, humid; gales, strong winds common in winter
Terrain: low hills separated by fertile depressions
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Town Hill 76 m
Natural resources: limestone, pleasant climate fostering tourism
Land use: arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 80% (55% developed, 45% rural/open space) (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: hurricanes (June to November)
Environment - current issues: sustainable development
Geography - note: consists of about 138 coral islands and islets with ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes; some land was leased by US Government from 1941 to 1995

Executive authority in Bermuda is vested in The Queen and is exercised on her behalf by the Governor. The governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government. The current governor is Sir Richard Hugh Turton Gozney KCMG; he was sworn-in on December 12, 2007.[4] There is also a Deputy Governor (currently Mark Andrew Capes JP).[5] Defence and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, which also retains responsibility to ensure good government. It must approve any changes to the Constitution of Bermuda. Bermuda now exists as an overseas territory of Britain, but it is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a Royal Assent granted Bermuda limited self-governance, thus making Bermuda's Parliament the fifth oldest in the world, behind only England, the Isle of Man, Iceland and Poland[6]

The Constitution of Bermuda came into force on June 1, 1967 and has been amended in 1989 and 2003. The head of government is the premier. A cabinet is nominated by the premier and appointed officially by the governor. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament modeled on the Westminster system. The Senate is the upper house consisting of eleven members appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier and the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly, or lower house, has thirty-six members elected by the eligible voting populace in secret ballot to represent geographically defined precincts. Elections must be called at no more than five-year intervals. The Progressive Labour Party won the most recent general election held on December 18, 2007, winning 22 of 36 seats in the House of Assembly.[7]

Following his victory over former Premier Alex Scott at the Progressive Labour Party delegates' conference in October 2006, the current premier is Ewart Brown. The United Bermuda Party serves in opposition. The Progressive Labour Party leadership supports independence from the United Kingdom, although polls have indicated that this is not supported by the population. While a referendum in 1995 on independence was defeated by a substantial margin, it was boycotted by many black Bermudians, the majority, led by the Bermuda Industrial Union and the then Progressive Labour Party opposition.

There are few accredited diplomats in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda - comprising both the United States Consulate and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services at the Bermuda International Airport. U.S. Consul General Gregory W. Slayton is the U.S. Chief of Mission in Bermuda. Given that the United States is by far Bermuda's largest trading partner - providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors while there is an estimated $163 billion of U.S. capital in the Bermuda insurance/re-insurance industry alone - and the fact that an estimated 5% of Bermuda residents are U.S. citizens which represents 14% of all foreign born persons - American diplomatic presence is seen as an important element in the Bermuda political landscape.

People Population: 66,163 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.3% (male 6,094/female 6,014)
15-64 years: 69.2% (male 22,696/female 23,094)
65 years and over: 12.5% (male 3,597/female 4,668) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 40.6 years
male: 39.7 years
female: 41.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.576% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 11.26 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 7.84 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.34 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.013 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.983 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.771 male(s)/female
total population: 0.959 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 8.08 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 9.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.13 years
male: 76 years
female: 80.29 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.88 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.297% (2005)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 163 (2005)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 392 (2005)
Nationality: noun: Bermudian(s)
adjective: Bermudian
Ethnic groups: black 54.8%, white 34.1%, mixed 6.4%, other races 4.3%, unspecified 0.4% (2000 census)
Religions: Anglican 23%, Roman Catholic 15%, African Methodist Episcopal 11%, other Protestant 18%, other 12%, unaffiliated 6%, unspecified 1%, none 14% (2000 census)
Languages: English (official), Portuguese
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: 98%
female: 99% (2005 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Bermuda
former: Somers Islands
Dependency status: overseas territory of the UK
Government type: parliamentary; self-governing territory
Capital: name: Hamilton
geographic coordinates: 32 17 N, 64 47 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November
Administrative divisions: 9 parishes and 2 municipalities*; Devonshire, Hamilton, Hamilton*, Paget, Pembroke, Saint George*, Saint George's, Sandys, Smith's, Southampton, Warwick
Independence: none (overseas territory of the UK)
National holiday: Bermuda Day, 24 May
Constitution: 8 June 1968; amended 1989 and 2003
Legal system: English law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Sir Richard GOZNEY (since 12 December 2007)
head of government: Premier Ewart BROWN (since 30 October 2006); Deputy Premier Paula COX
cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the premier, appointed by the governor
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed premier by the governor
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (11 seats; members appointed by the governor, the premier, and the opposition) and the House of Assembly (36 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve up to five-year terms)
elections: last general election held 18 December 2007 (next to be held not later than 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - PLP 52.5%, UBP 47.3%; seats by party - PLP 22, UBP 14
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Court of Appeal; Magistrate Courts
Political parties and leaders: Progressive Labor Party or PLP [Ewart BROWN]; United Bermuda Party or UBP [Wayne FURBERT]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Bermuda Employer's Union [Eddie SAINTS]; Bermuda Industrial Union or BIU [Derrick BURGESS]; Bermuda Public Services Union or BPSU [Ed BALL]; Bermuda Union of Teachers [Michael CHARLES]
International organization participation: Caricom (associate), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, ITUC, UPU, WCO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (overseas territory of the UK)
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Consul General Gregory W. SLAYTON
consulate(s) general: Crown Hill, 16 Middle Road, Devonshire DVO3
mailing address: P. O. Box HM325, Hamilton HMBX; American Consulate General Hamilton, US Department of State, 5300 Hamilton Place, Washington, DC 20520-5300
telephone: [1] (441) 295-1342
FAX: [1] (441) 295-1592, [1] (441) 296-9233
Flag description: red, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Bermudian coat of arms (white and green shield with a red lion holding a scrolled shield showing the sinking of the ship Sea Venture off Bermuda in 1609) centered on the outer half of the flag

Bermuda's culture is a mixture of the various sources of its population, though little trace remains of the various Native American, Spanish-Caribbean, African, Irish or Scots cultures that would have been evident in the 17th century, with Anglo-Saxon culture becoming dominant. Today, the only language other than English which is spoken by any substantial part of the population is actually Portuguese, following one hundred and sixty years of immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands (primarily the Azores, though also from Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands). There are strong British influences, together with Afro-Caribbean. A second wave of immigration from the West Indies has been sustained throughout the 20th century, although, unlike the Africans who immigrated from that area as indentured servants (or who were imported as slaves) in the 17th century, the more recent arrivals have mostly come from English speaking countries (albeit, most of the West Indian islands whose populations now speak English were then part of the Spanish Empire). This new infusion of West Indians has both accelerated social and political change, and diversified Bermuda's culture. West Indian musicians introduced calypso music when Bermuda's tourist industry was expanded with the increase of visitors brought by post Second World War aviation. While calypso music appealed more to the visitors than to the locals, Reggae has been embraced since the 1970s with the influx of Jamaican immigration.

Bermuda's literary history was largely limited to non-Bermudian writers commenting on the island. In the 20th century, a large number of books were written and published locally, though few were aimed at a wider market than Bermuda (most of these being scholarly reference books, rather than creative writing). One Bermudian novelist, Brian Burland, has achieved a degree of success and acclaim internationally, although the first (and undoubtedly the most important, historically) notable book credited to a Bermudian was the History of Mary Prince, a slave narrative by a Bermudian woman, Mary Prince, which helped to end slavery in the British Empire. Bermuda's proximity to the United States means that many aspects of US culture are reflected or incorporated into Bermudian culture. Many non-Bermudian writers have also made Bermuda their home, or have had homes here, including A.J. Cronin and F. Van Wyck Mason, who wrote on Bermudian subjects.

Dance and music are important in Bermuda. The dances of the colourful Gombey Dancers, seen at many events, were influenced by imported Native American and African slaves.

Bermuda has produced, or been home, to actors (such as Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, and most famously, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Noted musicians have included local icons The Talbot Brothers, who performed for many decades in both Bermuda and The United States (and appearing on Ed Sullivan's televised variety show), jazz pianist Lance Hayward, pop singer Heather Nova and more recently dancehall artist Collie Buddz. In 1979, Gina Swainson was crowned "Miss World".

Every year Bermuda hosts an international film festival, which shows many independent and interesting films. One of the festival's founders is film producer and director Arthur Rankin, Jr., co-founder of the Rankin/Bass production company.[19]

Bermuda watercolours painted by local artists are sold at various galleries and elaborately hand-carved cedar sculptures are another speciality. One such 7 ft. sculpture created by Bermudian artisan Chesley Trott is on display at the airport's baggage claim area. Local artwork may also be viewed at several galleries around the island. Alfred Birdsey was one of the more famous and talented watercolourists, his impressionistic landscapes of Hamilton, St. George's and the surrounding sailboats, homes, and bays of Bermuda are world-renowned. He also painted some sailboat artwork that was used to promote the America's Cup when it is sailed from Newport, Rhode Island, USA to Bermuda.

Economy Economy - overview: Bermuda enjoys the highest per capita income in the world, more than 50% higher than that of the US. Its economy is primarily based on providing financial services for international business and luxury facilities for tourists. A number of reinsurance companies relocated to the island following the 11 September 2001 attacks and again after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, contributing to the expansion of an already robust international business sector. Bermuda's tourism industry - which derives over 80% of its visitors from the US - continues to struggle but remains the island's number two industry. Most capital equipment and food must be imported. Bermuda's industrial sector is small, although construction continues to be important; the average cost of a house in June 2003 had risen to $976,000. Agriculture is limited with only 20% of the land being arable.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $4.5 billion (2004 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $NA
GDP - real growth rate: 4.6% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $69,900 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 1%
industry: 10%
services: 89% (2002 est.)
Labor force: 38,360 (2004)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture and fishing 3%, laborers 17%, clerical 19%, professional and technical 21%, administrative and managerial 15%, sales 7%, services 19% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate: 2.1% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line: 19% (2000)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.8% (November 2005)
Budget: revenues: $738 million
expenditures: $665 million (FY04/05)
Agriculture - products: bananas, vegetables, citrus, flowers; dairy products, honey
Industries: international business, tourism, light manufacturing
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 618 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 574.8 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 4,400 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports: 4,250 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $763 million (2006)
Exports - commodities: reexports of pharmaceuticals
Exports - partners: Spain 35.3%, UK 15.7%, Brazil 9.1%, Sweden 7.5% (2006)
Imports: $1.162 billion (2006)
Imports - commodities: clothing, fuels, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, chemicals, food and live animals
Imports - partners: US 71.8%, Venezuela 6.9%, Canada 6.6% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $90,000 (2004)
Debt - external: $160 million (FY99/00)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $NA
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.125 billion (2005)
Currency (code): Bermudian dollar (BMD)
Currency code: BMD
Exchange rates: Bermudian dollar per US dollar - 1.0000 (fixed rate pegged to the US dollar)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 57,700 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 60,100 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: good
domestic: fully automatic digital telephone system; fiber-optic trunk lines
international: country code - 1-441; landing point for the Atlantica-1 telecommunications submarine cable that extends from the US to Brazil; satellite earth stations - 3 (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 5, FM 3, shortwave 0 (2005)
Radios: 82,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 3 (2005)
Televisions: 66,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bm
Internet hosts: 2,949 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 20 (2000)
Internet users: 42,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 447 km
paved: 447 km
note: public roads - 225 km; private roads - 222 km (2002)
Merchant marine: total: 133 ships (1000 GRT or over) 8,366,999 GRT/8,615,385 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 24, container 22, liquefied gas 30, passenger 23, passenger/cargo 5, petroleum tanker 15, refrigerated cargo 10, roll on/roll off 4
foreign-owned: 126 (Australia 4, Belgium 3, China 10, France 1, Germany 21, Greece 3, Hong Kong 4, Ireland 1, Israel 3, Japan 1, Nigeria 11, Norway 5, Singapore 1, Sweden 15, UK 20, US 23)
registered in other countries: 50 (Bahamas 12, Croatia 2, Marshall Islands 5, Philippines 31) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Hamilton, Saint George
Military Military branches: no regular military forces; Bermuda Police Service, Bermuda Reserve Constabulary, Bermuda Regiment
Military service age and obligation: 18-23 years of age; eligible men required to register for conscription as needed into the Bermuda Regiment, which is largely voluntary; term of service 39 months (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 15,151 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 12,165 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 408 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.11% (2005 est.)
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the UK
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: none