The Carib Indians, native to St. Barts for hundreds of years, called St. Barts Ouanaloa, but Christopher Columbus had other ideas upon arriving here in 1493. He tagged the small island St. Bartholomé after his brother of the same name. The Spanish by passed St. Barts as they moved on to explore other areas of the Caribbean, but it wasn't long before St. Barts attracted the French, who were lured by St. Barts' convenient location along the West Indian Trade Route. Bitter disputes with the native population that remained on St. Barts finally dissipated in the late 17th century when a small, but prosperous, colony was established.
Settlers took advantage of St. Barts' protected harbor for nearly one hundred years, but eventually sought to pursue other interests, trading St. Barts to Sweden in 1784. Under the orders of King Gustav III, who deemed the hub of St. Barts to be its capital and named it after himself, the infrastructure on St. Barts grew exponentially. Gustavia became a thriving shipping and trading port. Only a series of natural disasters in the 19th century thwarted St. Barts' growth, upending St. Barts' economy and turning the colony into a financial burden. Sweden sold St. Barts back to France, who gave the island its modern French moniker, Saint-Barthélemy. St. Barts remains a French holding as a dependent of the island of Guadeloupe.
The St. Barts of today remains in many ways how it would have looked centuries ago. Most of its few thousand current residents are descendent from the original Norman and Breton settlers who came to St. Barts in the 1600s. Tourism is an important part of the island's economy, but local officials have done much to control growth on St. Barts and to preserve its natural beauty. St. Barts is very much an unspoiled paradise.