|Municipalities of the Sint Eustatius and Saba|
The Dutch Antilles are two islands in the Lesser Antilles that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is composed of two islands:
- Saint Eustatius Island, and
- Saba Island
Both islands are two separate municipalities under the Kingdom of the Netherlands and do not possess any special status. The two municipalities are equal to the other municipalities in the European mainland.
Early History and the Dutch West India Company
During the time of Dutch settlement, the island of Saint Eustatius was reported to have been uninhabited. The island of Saba, however, were originally inhabited by the Siboney, and later Arawak peoples. Christopher Colombus first sighted the islands in the 1490s, but it was not until 1635 that the island of Saba would be claimed by a European nation (specifically France). Later, the Dutch West India company claimed the island of Saint Eustatius and started settling families in the 1640s.
During the French Revolution, the islands were temporarily occupied by Great Britain, before being granted to the newly-formed Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1814.
Kingdom of the Netherlands (1814-present)
Following the formation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Dissolution of the Dutch West India Company, the Royal Caribbean Company was formed and took over governance of the island. The islands then served as a waystation to the southern ports of the colony of Tussenland. In the 2nd Dutch-Spanish War in 1850, Saint Eustatius and Saba were briefly occupied by Spain. The Dutch lost the southern ports of Tussenland as a result of the war, and in the aftermath, reduced the external inter-American trade of the islands. This, and the devastation caused by the war led to the near-bankruptcy the small Royal Caribbean company (which only held 5 islands: Sint Eustatius, Saba, Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire). In 1856, the Kingdom of the Netherlands purchased the remaining assets of the Royal Caribbean Company, and the five islands fell under the direct control of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In 1861, New Netherland purchased the three islands of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire from the kingdom (see link), leaving only two islands to the kingdom. In the 20th century, the islands were declared as municipalities of the Netherlands.
The islands are predominantly Christian. 87% of the Saba population, and 91% of the Saint Eustatius population practice Christianity. The official language of both the islands is Dutch, however there is a strong Spanish-speaking minority on the island of Saint Eustatius, which historians attribute to the trade and interaction between them and the Spanish islands during the 18th and 19th centuries. In a recent census, the combined populations of the islands total up to five-thousand.