Antilles was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the
Netherlands, consisting of two groups of islands in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba,
Curaçao and Bonaire ( ABC Islands ), in Leeward Antilles just off the Venezuelan
coast; and Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten ( SSS Islands ), in the Leeward
Islands southeast of the Virgin Islands.
Aruba seceded in 1986 as a separate country within the
Kingdom of the Netherlands,
and the rest of the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010,
resulting in two new constituent countries, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, with the
other islands joining the Netherlands
as "special municipalities", officially public bodies.
The name 'Netherlands Antilles' is still sometimes used
to indicate the islands which are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
discovered both the Leeward and Windward island groups, but Spain founded settlements only in the Leeward Islands. In the 17th century, the islands were
conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as military outposts
and trade bases. In the late 18th century both Curaçao and Sint Eustatius
became prominent in the slave trade.
From 1815 onwards, Curaçao and
Dependencies formed a colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1865 a government
regulation for Curaçao was enacted that allowed for some very limited autonomy
for the colony. This changed after the conclusion of the Second World War. British
and American occupation—with consent by the Dutch government—of the islands
during the war led to increasing demands for autonomy within the population as
The territory was renamed to
"Netherlands Antilles" in 1948. On 3
March 1951, the Island Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles was issued by royal
decree, giving fairly large autonomy to the various island territories in the Netherlands Antilles. A consolidated version of this
regulation remained in force until the dissolution of the Netherlands
Antilles in 2010.