Maldives History

Maldives History

Middle Ages to the 19th century

The Maldives have been continuously populated since the 5th century, presumably by fishermen from India and Sri Lanka. Formerly Buddhist, Islam was introduced by Arab seafarers in the 12th century. From this point on, the age of Islamic sultans began in the Maldives, starting with Mohammed Ibn Abdullah and ending with Mohammed Fareed-ul-Awal (1968).

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In the 16th century, the Portuguese tried unsuccessfully to establish themselves in the Maldives. In 1645 the islands placed themselves under the protection of the Dutch, followed by the British, with whom a protectorate contract was concluded in 1887. In this contract, the Sultan of the Maldives undertook to pay a tribute in return for the internal autonomy of the islands and protection by the English.


A process of democratization began gradually in the 1930s. The absolute sultanate was transformed into a constitutional one. Until 1952 the Maldives were still a British protectorate, in 1953 the first republic was founded under Amin Didi. In 1965 the Maldives became completely independent, left the British Commonwealth of Nations and became the 117th member of the United Nations. During the short term of office of the first president (he was shot in Mal¨¦ after nine months), he underwent a variety of social and economic reforms. After a transitional period under a sultan (Mohammed Fareed), the republic was again proclaimed in 1968 under the leadership of Ibrahim Nasir.

Recent developments

In the first half of the 1970s, the Maldives began to develop tourism as a source of foreign exchange income because the island group had to offer vacationers a unique underwater world right on their doorstep thanks to the coral reefs. In 1978 Maumoon Abdul Gayoom took over the office of President from the dictatorial Amir Ibrahim Nasir; he too ruled autocratically. Gayoom had the Great Friday Mosque and Islamic Center built, which are still eye-catchers in Male today. According to AbbreviationFinder, long-distance tourism became an increasingly important source of income for the Maldives. To date, almost 90 islands have been turned into “tourist islands” with their own power supply and, in some cases, luxurious hotel facilities. The building materials and the necessary natural goods were imported.

Opposition parties were officially approved in 1998; de facto, however, smaller opposition parties have only existed since 2005. Some of them saw themselves subjected to considerable repression and restrictions in their political work. According to a 2003 Amnesty International human rights report, President Gayoom’s regime used torture. After a well-known political prisoner was killed in prison in 2003, violent street protests broke out in Mal¨¦, which the regime violently crushed. In 2006, President Gayoom presented the “roadmap” for a reform process due to pressure from the opposition and abroad.In a constitutional referendum in August 2007, a clear majority voted for the presidential system proposed by President Gayoom based on the model of the United States. The new constitution entered into force in August 2008. At the first democratic election in the country’s history in October 2008, opposition candidate Mohamed Nasheed won, putting an end to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

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A bomb attack near a mosque in Mal¨¦ in 2007 showed that the tropical island paradise is not excluded from threats, in which twelve tourists were partially seriously injured.

The great coral death in 1998 and also the gloomy forecasts regarding global warming, which would have catastrophic consequences for the flat island due to the rising sea level, slowed down for the first time the government’s plans to further expand tourism. President Mohamed Nasheed started in 2008 with a program to enable the acquisition of new land (in India, Sri Lanka or Australia) as a reserve territory for the Maldives population. He resigned from his post as President after protests by the population and a mutiny by revolting police officers in February 2012. President since November 2013 is Abdulla Yameen, the younger half-brother of the former President Gayoom.

Maldives President