Chagos Conservation Trust

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What do we know about the history of the Chagos Archipelago?

The Chagos Archipelago has been a British territory since 1814 when it was ceded to Britain with Mauritius, which then included the Seychelles. Following the French practice, it was administered as a dependency of Mauritius until 1965, when by agreement it was detached to form the new British Indian Ocean Territory. Three other island groups, formerly part of the Seychelles, were made part of the Seychelles, when the Seychelles gained independence in 1976.

The islands were uninhabited until the late 18th century, when the French established coconut plantations using slave labour. After emancipation, many slaves became contract employees and remained on the islands. Following the decision in the 1960s that the islands should be set aside for defence needs, the UK purchased the freehold title to the land in the islands in 1967. The copra plantations were run down as their commercial future was already unviable and the last of the contract workers and their families left the territory in 1972/3. The islanders (originally called Ilois but now more often termed Chagossians) were relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles. Successive British governments have expressed regrets about the way resettlement was carried out and provided compensation.

Although many Chagossians still live in Mauritius, with a small community with Chagossian links in the Seychelles, some have moved to the UK when they gained British citizenship under the UK Overseas Territories Act 2002. Over recent years some Chagossian groups have brought a number of claims against the British government and there have been several court judgements on this matter.