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The island of St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barths, was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The explorer named the island after his brother, Batholomeo. The French began settling the island, after claiming it as their own, in the mid 1600's. The island being a convenient acquisition for them as it was in close proximity to another French island, St. Kitts. These original French settlers were eventually killed by raiding Carib Indians, but were replaced by a new settlement of Frenchmen in the 1700's, mainly buccaneers from Normandy who grew wealthy on the island by raiding Spanish ships.
After becoming part of Sweden for a brief time, St. Barths, and its surrounding islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, were given status as a Department of France in the 1940's. The citizens of these islands today carry French passports and are full status French citizens.
Today St. Barths is a popular winter getaway for people from mainland France and Europe, as well as for visitors from North America.