In 1503 Juan de Bermudez, a Spaniard, discovered the islands but did not claim them for Spain. They were subsequently claimed for England after the Sea Venture, commanded by British Admiral Sir George Somers, was shipwrecked on the islands in 1609. The Sea Venture was on its way to the newly settled colony of Virginia.
Geography and climate
Historically known as the Bermudas or Somers Islands, Bermuda consists of some 150 small islands in the Western Atlantic Ocean at latitude 32 north and longitude 64 west. The nearest land is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, which sits 600 miles (965 kilometres) to the west. Bermuda is not in the Caribbean and its climate is governed by the Gulf Stream, thus ensuring that the Island has very mild winters.
The seven principal islands are connected by bridges and a causeway, and are about 22 miles (35 kilometres) long, with an average width of between one-half and one mile and a total area of approximately 20 square miles (52 square kilometres). The islands, which are volcanic in origin, with a limestone cap, have a highest elevation of 260 feet (79 meters).
The climate is generally mild and humid, with temperatures varying from an average of 62F (16C) in February to an average of 82F (28C) in August. The average rainfall is between 50 and 60 inches (127 and 152 centimetres) per annum, spread reasonably evenly throughout the year.
Most businesses are located in Hamilton, St. George's and Dockyard.
Bermuda is a self-governing British colony and is now the United Kingdom’s oldest dependent territory. The Governor is appointed by the British Crown, and in the final months of 2007 the new Governor was appointed; His Excellency Sir Richard Gozney.
The Constitution, introduced in 1968, provides for internal self-government with responsibility for External Affairs, Defence and Internal Security being retained by the Government of the United Kingdom. The Bermuda government is elected every five years, unless dissolved sooner.
Government is exercised through the House of Assembly; a nominated Senate, and the Executive branch. The House of Assembly consists of 40 elected members representing 20 electoral districts. The Senate consists of 11 members appointed by the Governor - 5 on the advice of the ruling party (the Premier), 3 on the advice of the Opposition leader, and 3 by the Governor himself. The Executive branch comprises the Governor (representing the Crown) and the Cabinet. Generally, the house of Assembly initiates legislation, which is approved by the Senate and signed into statute by the Governor.
Since 1998, the ruling party has been the Progressive Labour Party ("PLP"), and the Opposition has been the United Bermuda Party ("UBP"). In 1998 the PLP ended the UBP's 30-year reign as the Government of Bermuda, and the elections of 2007 held the PLP in power.
It is anticipated that an amendment to the Constitution will be effected in 2003 in order to change the number of electoral districts and their representation. It is expected that, in future, there will be 36 electoral districts and one elected member will represent each.
The legal system is based on English Common Law and the courts comprise Magistrates' Courts, a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal.
Population, language and religion
The total population is estimated to be approximately 65,000 (as of the 2000 Census), of whom about 60 percent are of African ethnic origin and the other 40 percent principally of English and Portuguese ancestry. The language of the country is English. The predominant religion is Christianity.
Bermuda enjoys a high standard of education, based for the most part on the British school system. Bermuda has excellent Government-run and private primary and secondary schools. Attendance is compulsory between the ages of five and sixteen.
The Bermuda College provides post-secondary education in three specialized departments: Arts and Science, Hotel and Business Administration and Applied Sciences. These programs provide preparation for higher level examinations and for transfer into upper levels of overseas educational institutions, in addition to direct entry into the local workforce.
Bermuda residents may complete degrees locally at the College through courses given by Syracuse University, New York (BS in business administration), and Queen's University, Ontario (BA in liberal arts) among others. More than one-third of Bermuda's post-secondary students complete their education abroad.
Bermuda has long enjoyed political and economic stability with a private sector that works hand in hand with the Government in order to be responsive to the needs of both private clients and the international business sector. The island has been recognized as an extremely high quality offshore jurisdiction and its reputation has enhanced its desirability as a place to do business.
Unlike some other jurisdictions which rely on the volume of business, Bermuda has been successful in attracting highly respectable clients who often choose the jurisdiction due to its fairness and common sense approach to regulation. Both the private sector and the regulatory authorities require a high, but fair, level of due diligence and disclosure of information.
The Bermuda economy is supported by an infrastructure which includes all of the services and amenities required by private clients and international business. All of the major accounting firms are represented and there are a number of very reputable legal firms which often offer legal services in multiple jurisdictions. A wide range of banking and investment services are available from the Islands two Banks and many investment management companies.
As a resort destination, Bermuda has an abundance of accommodation ranging from resort hotels to smaller guesthouses to bed and breakfasts. Both tourist and business traveller are well provided for and accommodation is spread throughout the island. Flights to Bermuda originate from Toronto and Halifax, Canada; Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta in the U.S., and London, England.