The Virgin Islands (known as the British Virgin Islands or BVI) are a British Overseas Territory located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. They are situated to the east of Puerto Rico. The BVI is an archipelago, consisting of the large islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada, along with over 50 small islands and cays.
The BVI were first settled by the Arawak, and there is evidence of Amerindian occupation prior to displacement and settlement by the Carib’s. Columbus discovered the island on his second voyage to the Americas, and named it Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes (Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins), abbreviated to The Virgins. The English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Danish all fought for control of the BVI, but England ultimately succeeded. The Danish obtained control of the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix, which they later sold to the United States.
Tortola is the largest island, and hosts the capital city Road Town. The BVI has a population of around 31,000, with over 23,000 living on Tortola. British Virgin Islanders are British Overseas Territories citizens and British citizens. Although English is the official language of the BVI, a creole language is spoken by the majority of the population. In addition, Virgin Islands creole changes depending on the island on which it is being spoken. Noted forms of Virgin Islands creole include Crucian dialect, Thomian dialect, Tortolian dialect, Saint Martin dialect, Saba dialect, Statia dialect.
The BVI operates as a Parliamentary Democracy. By virtue of their status as an overseas territory, ultimate executive authority vests in the Queen, and responsibility for defence and foreign affairs is vested with the UK. The authority of the Queen is exercised by a Governor on her behalf. The Governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government.