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History of the Maldives


Early Times

A nation that has 26 natural atolls made up of 1192 islands, the Maldives has a rich and colorful history. In the ancient times, the Maldives were first ruled by king sultans known as Radun and occasionally queen sultanas known as Ranin.

The Maldives has a history of having a strategic importance due to its location on the Indian Ocean’s major marine routes. The nearest neighbors of the Maldives would be India and Sri Lanka, which has had economic and cultural ties with the country for many centuries. The country served as the primary source of cowrie shells, which was an ancient form of currency in Asia and in some regions in the East African coast.

Colonial Eras

During its early years, the country was ruled by several colonial powers. Here are some of them.

1. Portuguese

The Portuguese started a small garrison with a Viyazoru or a Viador in the Maldives in 1558. They administered this garrison from Goa, which was where their main colony was. Records say that the Portuguese tried to force Christianity to the locals. This was not entirely successful as fifteen years later, Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Azam, a local leader, organized a popular revolt with the help of his brother and drove out the Portuguese from the Maldives. Today, the event is commemorated as National Day.

2. Dutch

During the mid-17th century, the Dutch established hegemony over the affairs of the Maldives. They were able to do this without being directly involved in local matters of the country, which were governed based on the centuries-old Islamic customs. When the Dutch were expelled from Ceylon by the British in 1796, the Maldives became a British-protected area or a British Protectorate. This status of the country was officially recorded in the 1887 agreement when the sultan accepted the British influence over the defense and external relations of the country. However, the British has no presence on the island community of Male. Eventually, they left the islanders alone and the internal administration continued to be regulated by the Muslim traditional institutions.

3. British

The British colony got entangled with the country because of domestic disturbances that targeted the Bora merchants who were then, British subjects. The rivalry between the two dominant families, the Kakaage clan and the Athireege clan was resolved with the latter winning the favor of the British authorities who were in Ceylon. The British colonial era lasted until 1965.

Independence of the Maldives

Although the country gained total independence in 1965; however, the British continued to have an air base on the Gan island which is the country’s southernmost atoll up until the year 1976. The departure of the British forces at the height of the Cold War triggered foreign speculation on the future of the British air base. The Soviet Union then requested to use the air base, which was turned down by the Maldives.

The republic faced its greatest challenge during the early 1990s when there was a need for economic development and modernization. Because of the country’s limited resources in tourism, fishing and agriculture, it had a difficult time in improving its economic conditions. There was also the concern of a projected long-term rise of the sea level, which could prove to be very disastrous to the nation’s low-lying coral islands.

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