History of Île de Romanhe

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Île de Romanhe was discovered on 27 February 1772 by the French explorer Charles Marc du Boisguehenneuc, officer (ensign) on board of the vessel Le Gros-Ventre. In January that year, Le Gros-Ventre, commanded by Saint Allouard (a cousin of du Boisguehenneuc) had traveled from Mauritius to the south, together with the vessel La Fortune (commanded by Yves de Kerguelen-Trémarec), to search for a hypothetical southern continent and during their voyage they had already discovered the Kerguelen. In that area both ships lost contact with each other and Le Gros-Ventre was sailing back to Mauritius when some new islands were seen. Du Boisguehenneuc, now in command since Saint Allouard had become ill, called the island Île du Boisguehenneuc and took it in possession for the kingdom of France. He noted large amounts of fire in the island's mountains and he discovered that the island was in fact inhabited, unlike the islands in the near vicinity. An unknown people turned out to be living in the inhospitable mountain areas, where, according to French reports, they worshiped the volcano; they didn't hesitate to throw possible enemies down the crater. Whether or not these reports were based on the truth is unclear, because the few French sailors that worked under du Boisguehenneuc's command, didn't succeed in establishing contact with the local population.

In 1776 James Cook visited the island and he too mentioned the strange people that might be living there. More important was however the flourishing animal life in the seas around the island. This turned out to be the beginning of a large slaughter which continued during the entire 19th century and lead to the almost complete eradication of the local wildlife including whales, seals, penguins and walruses.

In the first half of the 19th century no attempts were made to colonize the island. The mainly English and American hunters rarely stayed longer than a few seasons, sheep didn't adapt very well to the humid climate or were killed by the Ilyaromans, as the indigenous population apparently called themselves. The first more or less permanent settlers of European descent were missionaries who wanted to convert the Ilyaromans to christianity. In 1860 a small expedition lead by Pierre l'Augurq hibernated on Île du Boisguehenneuc (by this time corrupted into Île de Boiguehenneuc) and founded two small commercial settlements: Port Napoléon and Port Augurq. In 1871 the French government deported 1500 prisoners to Île de Boiguehenneuc in order to help building the city that was renamed Port de Boiguehenneuc. Later also beggars, vagrants and other undesired persons were sent to the colony. Most of them didn't survive longer than a few years. Only in 1893 the island was officially added to the French colonial empire.

The need among both the colonists and the Ilyaroman population was enormous and around 1900 it was expected that the indigenous population would die out sooner than later. The remaining Ilyaromans were forced to adopt Roman-Catholic faith, and their language, traditions and original religion were banned, but they didn't die out. Half way the twenties of the twentieth century, they became the majority on the island once more. In the following years, a form of social development began leading to the Ilyaromans adapting themselves to the modern era. The population expanded again after 1940 and in 1980 the island had almost 30,000 inhabitants, 2000 of whom were of European (mostly French) descent.

From 1955 on, Île de Boiguehenneuc was part of Les Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises. Influenced by liberation movements around the world, an increasing discontent about French rule arose among the Ilyaromans after 1960. They demanded recognition of the Ilyaroman language, education (and not only in French) and one or two even demanded independence. The French government started to invest more in the island and in 1972 Île de Boiguehenneuc received a large amount of autonomy.

The 70's were a period of large social unrest and in 1981 this lead to a short-lived armed revolt, during which the capital of Port de Boiguehenneuc was seized by rebels and the island was declared independent. After negotiations with France, it was decided in 1982 that a referendum about the status of the island would be held. 70% of the population voted for independence and on 31 December 1982 the independence was declared officially. The name of the country was changed to Île de Romanhe. France however kept a military base on the island and remained responsible for defence issues.

During the first 25 years, the economic situation of the country remained bad and almost half of the GDP consists of what Ilyaroman expats send home. There is some industry, but many are unemployed. In 2005 a coalition of opposition parties won the elections and the new government conducted a policy aimed at breaking the isolation of Île de Romanhe. Thanks to large-scale plans for investments in the country's infrastructure in order to enhance the economy, the country experienced a rapid economic development with mining, agriculture and tourism as the most important branches of industry. Mining, textile and agriculture are still the main industries on the island and although the worldwide economic crisis of 2009 put a sudden stop to the rapid economical development of the country, Île de Romanhe again belongs to the group of fast growing African economies. In 2009 the nationalist party that had governed the country between 1982 and 2005, regained power, and the country joined the AGL. In the same year, president and father of the nation Jean-François Sirkit-Sept died, the man who had lead the country towards the independence in 1982. In September 2011 new parliamentary elections were held and a coalition of the two liberal parties and the nationalist party now governs the country.