Christopher Columbus landed on Trinidad, which he named for the Holy Trinity, in 1498 and found a land quietly inhabited by the Arawak and Carib Indians. It was nearly a century later that Europeans began to settle Trinidad (called "leri&—land of the hummingbird—by the Amerindians). The Spanish settlement of San Jose de Oruma, located near the current city of Port of Spain, was the first of the island’s European villages, but was summarily invaded and destroyed by England's Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Trinidad remained under Spanish control until eventually seized by the British in 1797. As sugar plantations developed around the island, thousands of African slaves were brought to the island as laborers. When Britain abolished slavery, plantation owners looked to India, China, and the Middle East for laborers, bringing to Trinidad thousands more indentured workers.
Tobago, seen more as a strategic possession than an island for settlement, was often a point of contention. Amerindian tribes battled over the island and later, England, France, Spain, Latvia and others fought to control Tobago—over the years, control of this small parcel of land shifted more than 30 times. In the late 1600s, settlers established successful sugar, cotton and indigo plantations, largely through slave labor imported from Africa. In 1781, the French invaded again, causing tremendous destruction around Tobago, which impacted the previously thriving local economy.
In 1814, Britain regained control of Tobago, which it annexed to Trinidad in 1889. Trinidad and Tobago became independent of England in 1962 and was officially named the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976