Bermuda is an internally self-governing island Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, situated in the Atlantic Ocean. It has become one of the world's most important offshore financial centres. See Economy of Bermuda. Bermuda is often referred to as a tax haven or corporate haven. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization lists Bermuda as one of the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories of the world since 1945.
Main article: History of Bermuda
Bermuda was discovered in the early 1500s, probably in 1503, although the evidence for the exact year, and the identity of the discoverer, is sketchy. It was certainly known by 1511, when Peter Martyr published his Legatio Babylonica , which mentioned Bermuda. The discovery is attributed to a Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez .
In the early 20th century, as modern transportation and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy US, Canadian, and British tourists. In addition, the tariff enacted by the United States against its trading partners in 1930 cut off Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural export trade--primarily fresh vegetables to the US--spurring the overseas territory to develop its tourist industry, which is second behind international business in terms of economic importance to the island.
During World War II, Bermuda became important as a military base because of its location in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1941, the United States signed a lend-lease agreement with the United Kingdom giving the British surplus U.S. Navy destroyers in exchange for 99-year lease rights to establish naval and air bases in Bermuda. The bases consisted of 5.8 square kilometers (2.25 sq. mi.) of land largely reclaimed from the sea. The US Naval Air Station was on St. David's Island, while the US Naval Air Station Annex was at the western end of the island in the Great Sound.
Effective September 1, 1995, both bases were closed, as were British and Canadian bases on the island. Unresolved issues concerning the 1995 withdrawal of US forces - primarily related to environmental factors - delayed the formal return of the base lands to the Government of Bermuda. The United States formally returned the base lands in 2002.
Led by Premier Alex Scott, some Bermudians are clamoring for independence from Britain, although as of 2005 it was unclear whether a majority of the populace was convinced of its necessity.
There are two incorporated municipalities in Bermuda; the City of Hamilton, and the Town of St George. There are also a number of localities which are sometimes termed villages, among them Flatts and Somerset.