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Sailors knew of islands lying in the North Atlantic, about six hundred miles east of North Carolina, but their acquaintance usually came by way of shipwreck. A ring of treacherous reefs kept all except the desperately unfortunate away.

But four hundred and one years ago, in 1609, Brits began settling the watery archipelago of harbour-carved islands after a sea disaster wrecked a flotilla of ships which was sailing to rescue the colony of Virginia. The event is supposed to have inspired Shakespeare, who read William Strachey's account in manuscript, prior to its publication, and not long afterwards wrote The Tempest .


Aerial view of Bermuda looking west. St George's Island, on the right, and St David's Island, on the left, are in the foreground. Image: Bermuda Department of Tourism


The flag of Bermuda.Image: Wikimedia Commons

With 65,000 people, Bermuda is Britain's oldest and most populous remaining overseas territory, and has one of the world's oldest parliaments. The British people's Common Law helped to ensure just law. The naval base saw the Allies through two world wars. Low taxes and what the IMF recently described as "risk focused regulation" attracted international business. Bermuda has one of the world's highest GDPs per capita.

Bermuda has had to change, and in some ways change for the better. In 1831, Mary Prince, formerly a slave in Bermuda, published a compelling slave narrative in London. After Brits and enslaved Africans fought to end slavery, the horrible practice was abolished throughout the British Empire.

Flatts Village. Bermuda's capital is Hamilton.

I don't know Bermuda. I've yet to visit. In the history of most places in the world, one hundred years of pink sands, cerulean waters, flower-coloured houses and men who look good in bermuda shorts and knee-high socks would appear to be abundant good fortune. Four hundred and one years is bounty almost beyond reckoning.

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