Bermuda is the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory, settled by England a century before the Acts of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Bermuda's first capital, St George's, was settled in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the Americas.
Bermuda has an affluent economy, with finance as its largest sector followed by tourism, giving it the world's highest GDP per capita in 2005. It has a subtropical climate.
Pre-settlement GeographyParishes and municipalities Politics
Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Juan de Bermúdez. It is mentioned in Legatio Babylonica, published in 1511 by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, and was also included on Spanish charts of that year. 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), also the loud noise heard at night from wild hogs and of perpetual, storm-wracked conditions (most early visitors arrived under such conditions) and a surrounding ring of treacherous reefs kept them from attempting any permanent settlement on the Isle of Devils.
Bermúdez and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo ventured to Bermuda in 1515 with the intention of leaving a breeding stock of hogs on the island as a future stock of fresh meat for passing ships. However, the inclement weather prevented them from landing.
Some years later, a Portuguese ship on the way home from Santo 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.
Bermuda is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, roughly 580 nautical miles (1070 km, 670 mi) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and roughly 590 nautical miles (1100 km, 690 mi) southeast of Martha's Vineyard. The island lies due east of Fripp Island, South Carolina. It has 103 km (64 mi) of coastline. There are two incorporated municipalities in Bermuda: the City of Hamilton and the Town of St George. Bermuda is divided into various "parishes," in which there are some localities called "villages," such as Flatts Village, Tucker's Town and Somerset Village.
Although usually referred to in the singular, the territory consists of approximately 138 islands, with a total area of 53.3 square kilometres (20.6 sq mi). The largest island, main Island, is sometimes itself called Bermuda. Compiling a list of the islands is often complicated, as many have more than one name (as does the entire archipelago, which has also been known historically as La Garza, Virgineola, and the Isle of Devils). Despite its small land mass, there has been a tendency for place names to be repeated; there are, for example, two islands named Long Island, and St George's Town is located on St George's Island within St George's Parish (each known as St George's).
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes and two municipalities.
Bermuda's nine parishes:
Bermuda's two incorporated municipalities:
Bermuda's two informal villages:
Another informal village was raised in the years of the early settlement of the islands, though the name is still used for the area.
Executive authority in Bermuda is vested in the monarch 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 Mr. George Fergusson; he was sworn in on 23 May 2012. There is also a Deputy Governor (currently David Arkley). 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 the Parliament of Bermuda the fifth oldest in the world, behind only the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Althing of Iceland and Sejm of the Republic of Poland. Of these, it is the only one to have met continuously as a legislature since its inception through to today.
The State House, the home of Bermuda's parliament 1622–1815
The Constitution of Bermuda came into force in 1968 and was 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 modelled 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 constituencies. Elections must be called at no more than five-year intervals. The One Bermuda Alliance won the most recent general election held on 17 December 2012, winning 19 of the 36 seats in the House of Assembly. The current Premier is the Hon. Michael Dunkley. The Progressive Labour Party serves as Her Majesty's Loyal 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. The United States is by far Bermuda's largest trading partner (providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors, and 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.