The history of Trinidad and Tobago begins with the settlements of the islands by the Carib and Arawak peoples. Human settlement in Trinidad dates back to at least 7,000 years.
The Archaic or Ortoiroid are believed to have settled in Trinidad and Tobago from northeastern South America around 4000BCE.
Twenty-nine Archaic sites have been identified, mostly in south Trinidad and Tobago which includes the 7,000-year-old Banwari Trace site which is the oldest discovered human settlement in the eastern Caribbean. Archaic populations were pre-ceramic and dominated the area until about 200BCE.
Around 250BCE the first ceramic-using people in the Caribbean, the Saladoid people are believed to have moved north into the remaining islands of the Caribean. Thirty-seven Saladoid sites have been identified and are located all over the island.
A third group called the Barrancoid people settled in southern Trinidad and Tobago after migrating up the Orinoco River toward the sea. The oldest settlement appears to be Erin.
Both islands were visited by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498 and claimed in the name of Spain. Trinidad remained in Spanish hands until 1797 but was mostly settled by French colonists.
Tobago, the first Dutch colony of Nieuw-Walcheren ("New Walcheren") was short-lived. 68 colonists established Fort Vlissingen ("Fort Flushing") near modern Plymouth in 1628.
The sugarcane plantations dominated the economy in the 19th century gradually allowed for the cultivation of cacao. Chocolate became a high-priced, much sought-after commodity. The Colonial government opened land to settlers interested in establishing cacao estates.
The Federation of the West Indies, lasted from 3 January 1958 to 31 May 1962. It comprised of the ten territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, the then St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Saint Lucia, St Vincent, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Federation was established by the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 with the aim of establishing a political union among its members.