Before Christopher Columbus brought news of the New World back to Europe, Tortola was inhabited by the Arawak (a peaceful tribe) and Carib (cannibalistic and warfaring tribe) natives. The Spanish made some attempts to settle the area, but the islands were generally considered unimportant. A few English explorers also passed through the region during the 1500s, usually en route to another destination, but for the most part, the most significant European presence in this area for the next hundred years were pirates. The secluded coves gave them good shelter; here, they could hide and wait to attack trade ships. It was not until 1621 that the Dutch first made a permanent settlement on Tortola.

In the 17th century, the British took over Tortola and the surrounding islands and established a permanent plantation colony. The sugar trade on Tortola flourished until the abolition of slavery 150 years later, at which point British presence on the island declined significantly. After the passage of the International Business Companies Act in the 1980s, the island’s economy veered upwards, and today, the financial and tourism industries generate most of Tortola’s revenue. Tortola is in fact, one of the top most wealthy islands in the Caribbean where poverty and serious crime is near non-existant and the economy flourishes. Though it remains under the British crown, the official currency of the Islands is the U.S. dollar.