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People and Society






First inhabited by Arawak and later by Carib Indians, the Virgin Islands were settled by the Dutch in 1648 and then annexed by the English in 1672. The islands were part of the British colony of the Leeward Islands from 1872-1960; they were granted autonomy in 1967. The economy is closely tied to the larger and more populous US Virgin Islands to the west; the US dollar is the legal currency.


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Country name
Conventional long form None
Conventional short form British Virgin Islands
Abbreviation BVI

Dependency status
Overseas territory of the UK; internal self-governing

Government type

Name Road Town
Geographic coordinates 18 25 N, 64 37 W
Time difference
UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions
None (overseas territory of the UK)

None (overseas territory of the UK)

National holiday
Territory Day, 1 July (1956)

13 June 2007

Legal system
English common law

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch
Chief of state
Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Boyd MCCLEARY (since 20 August 2010)
Head of government
Premier Orlando SMITH (since 9 November 2011)
Executive Council appointed by the governor from members of the House of Assembly
The monarchy is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed premier by the governor

Legislative branch
Unicameral House of Assembly (13 elected seats, a speaker elected by the 13 members of the House of Assembly, and 1 non-voting ex officio member in the attorney general; members are elected by direct popular vote, 1 member from each of nine electoral districts, 4 at-large members; members serve four-year terms)
Last held on 7 November 2011 (next to be held in 2015)
Election results
Percent of vote by party - NDP 49.4%, VIP 42%, other 8.6%; seats by party - NDP 9, VIP 4

Judicial branch
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, consisting of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal (one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the High Court); Magistrate's Court; Juvenile Court; Court of Summary Jurisdiction

Political parties and leaders
Concerned Citizens Movement or CCM [Ethlyn SMITH]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Orlando SMITH]; United Party or UP [Gregory MADURO]; Virgin Islands Party or VIP [Ralph T. O'NEAL]

Political pressure groups and leaders
The Family Support Network; The Women's Desk
Other Environmentalists

International organization participation
Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, OECS, UNESCO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the us
None (overseas territory of the UK)

Diplomatic representation from the us
None (overseas territory of the UK)

Flag description
Blue, with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the Virgin Islander coat of arms centered in the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms depicts a woman flanked on either side by a vertical column of six oil lamps above a scroll bearing the Latin word VIGILATE (Be Watchful); the islands were named by COLUMBUS in 1493 in honor of Saint Ursula and her 11 virgin followers (some sources say 11,000) who reputedly were martyred by the Huns in the 4th or 5th century; the figure on the banner holding a lamp represents the saint, the other lamps symbolize her followers

National anthem
As a territory of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen" is official (see United Kingdom)


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  British Virgin Islands [ United Kingdom ] (Overseas Territory):

  GPS points from British Virgin Islands [ United Kingdom ] (Overseas Territory)

West Hill British Virgin Islands (general)

Sprat Point British Virgin Islands (general)

Johnny Ground British Virgin Islands (general)

Barracuda Bank British Virgin Islands (general)

Little Tobago Island British Virgin Islands (general)

Sandy Bay British Virgin Islands (general)

Kingfish Banks British Virgin Islands (general)

North Sound British Virgin Islands (general)
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