Netherlands Antilles History

Netherlands Antilles History

Until 10 October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The archipelagos consisted of parts – the Lower Window Island off the coast of Venezuela (also called the ” ABC Islands “): Aruba (until 1986) (see also here ), Bonaire (along with Klein Bonaire) and Curaçao along with Klein Curaçao.
The smallest group – Bovenwindse Eilanden, is composed of three smaller volcanic islands, located east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten (the northern part of the island belongs to the French island of Guadeloupe).

According to, the islands were discovered in the late 15th century and acquired by the Dutch West India Company from Spain.

The majority of the population consists of descendants of African slaves, in addition to Caribbean Indians and descendants of Europeans and Asians.

The extensive shipping of the Netherlands was punished by the Spaniards, who in 1606 forbade it. The Dutch responded by setting up a West India Company with the aim of establishing, governing and defending the colonies. From then on, the piracy against Spanish ships became an important source of income.

The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist on 10 October 2010 as an administrative unit. From this date, the islands gained new status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) are now a direct part of the Netherlands as special municipalities, and Curaçao and Sint Maarten now have status as independent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands – the same status as Aruba in 1986.


2500 BCE – The first pre-Columbian Indians ( Indigenous peoples of the Americas ) arrived from northern South America to Curacao.

1000 BCE – The Ciboney people tried to settle on St. Barts, but left the island due to lack of water.

500-1500 – The Caiquete people (a branch of Arawak ) were the first residents of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

8th century – Arawak Indians who came from South America settled on Sint Maarten, followed by Caibians, who named the island Soualiga – or the Salt Land.

1000s – The Arawak Indians were the first settlers on Aruba.

1493 – Christopher Columbus discovers Saba and St. Eustatius (several countries claimed the island for the next 150 years.) He also discovered St. Maarten, calling the island Isla de San Martin.

1499 – When the Spaniard, known for naming Venezuela, Alonso de Ojeda arrived in the archipelago this year, the Indians were enslaved and taken to Hispaniola – present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The same fate befell the Caribbean people on the Barlovento Islands ( Windward Islands ), which Columbus encountered in 1493.

1508 – Alonso de Ojeda is appointed the first governor of Aruba.

1515 – Arawak Indians are taken to Hispaniola to work in copper mines. The Caiquete people were taken to the copper mines in Santo Domingo.

1527 – Spain formally colonizes Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Governor Juan de Ampues asked King Charles V of Spain to bring the Indians back to the island, which the king allowed.

1568-1648 – The Dutch and Spaniards fought each other in the Eighty Years’ War.

1624 – French settlers grow tobacco in the French Quarter.

1632 – A group of shipwrecked Englishmen land on Saba. The island changed ownership 12 times between 1632-1816 (French, English, Spanish and Dutch).

1634 – Willemstad became Curaçao ‘s capital, and the Netherlands Antilles capital until 2010. The town came with the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Bonaire was colonized and used as a military base by the Dutch, who also used the island to graze their cattle.

1636 – Aruba, Bonaire, and Sint Eustatius are colonized by the Netherlands, forming the Dutch West India Company. The company contributed greatly to the Dutch colonization of America.

1639 – The Dutch West Indies Company starts salt production, and African slaves are imported and live in adjoining huts.

Fort Oranje was built to guard against future attacks at Bonaire’s main port. It was not until around 1840 that the settlement at the harbor was christened Kralendijk, which is today Bonaire’s capital.

1640 – Mount Sceneryon Saba erupted with extensive explosions and pyroclastic flows.

1642-1644 – Peter Stuyvesant was governor of Curaçao.

1646-1664 – Curaçao is administered from New Netherland.

1662 – Curaçao becomes the center of the Atlantic slave trade.

1780 – A major hurricane causes catastrophic damage and loss of more than 4,000 lives on St. Eustatius.

1791 – The Dutch West Indies Company is disbanded, and slaves belonging to the Kingdom of the Netherlands became known as government slaves.

1795 – Tula is a slave in the city of Bandabou, Curaçao, who liberates himself and starts a slave revolt, which results in a month-long conflict on the island between the escaped and the colonial government. He was executed on October 3.

1799-1802 – The British occupy Aruba.

1800-1803 – Holland loses control of Bonaire to the British. And again later from 1807 – 1816.

1805-1815 – The British occupy Aruba again.

1816 – Holland regains the archipelago.

1824 – Gold is discovered.

1845 – Aruba officially becomes part of the Netherlands Antilles.

1862 – Slavery is abolished in Bonaire.

1874 – The use of Guano (manure) as fertilizer was discovered, Aruba became a major supplier of calcium phosphate.

1915 – Royal Dutch Shell establishes an oil refinery in Curaçao. It closed in 1985.

1916 – Gold mining ceased due to dwindling supply.

1919 – St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten united as the Dutch Windward Islands.

1924 – Lago Oil and Transport Company builds an oil refinery at San Nicolaas in Aruba.

1935 – The first airport is established in Aruba. Read more here.

1940-1942 – During the German occupation of the Netherlands, Aruba was a British protectorate.

1942 – A German submarine attacks the oil refinery on February 16 and sinks the tanker SS Pedernales, which is moored at the port of San Nicolaas.

1942-1945 – Aruba was a US protectorate.

1943 – The first road from Fort Bay to The Bottom of Saba, was established and completed in 1958.

1954 – Bonaire becomes Dutch protectorate; was granted political independence.

Curaçao became the seat of government of the Netherlands Antilles.

1955 – Flamingo Airport is established in Kralendjik.

1959 – Aruba’s first hotel, Aruba Caribbean Hotel, opens. It closed in 1975. Read here.

1960 – Mahogany trees on the island destroyed by hurricanes.

1961 – Legislation passed to protect sea turtle eggs and nests.

The main road from the airport to the port of Saba was completed.

1962 – Bonaire Beach Hotel opens.

1971 – Bonaire bans javelin fishing.

1984 – The 235-tonne cargo ship, The Hilma Hooker, sinks off the coast of Bonaire on September 12. Today, the wreck is a popular dive site. See an overview of the wreck here.

1985 – Exxon Corporation closes the San Nicolaas oil refinery and begins dismantling the plant and the colony. It ruined the island’s economy.

1986 – Aruba secedes from the Netherlands Antilles to become a separate component of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, leaving only 5 islands.

1987 – The water surrounding Saba is renamed Saba National Marine Park.

1996 – Aruba joins the US list of major drug-producing or transit countries.

On July 7-28, Hurricane Cesar ravaged, causing 51 deaths (26 in Costa Rica ) in the Caribbean and Central America. As it crossed the Pacific it changed its name to Douglas.

2000 – Aruba is cited as one of 35 “uncooperative tax havens” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It was later removed from the list as the island has promised greater openness.

2005 – Aruba’s 7.6 meter high and 30 meter long tourist attraction, Natural Bridge collapsed on 2 September.

2010 – On 10 October, the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist as an administrative unit.

The tropical storm “ Thomas ” in Curaçao cost 2 lives in early November, and experienced the most extreme rain in 40 years. 26.5 cm of rain fell in one day in the eastern part of the country.

2011 – Bonaire adopts US dollar as official currency.

2013 – FILM: On July 4, the film about the slave Tula premiered in the Netherlands. Tula: The Revolt, was recorded in Curaçao.

2014 – Saint Eustatius had per. January 1, 2014 a population of 4,020.

Netherlands Antilles History