Probably known earlier to the Arabs, the Seychelles were explored by Vasco da Gama in 1502. In 1756 the French claimed the islands, and colonization by French planters and their slaves from Mauritius (Île de France) began in 1768. Britain took possession of the Seychelles in 1794 and gained permanent control of them by the Treaty of Paris (1814). The islands were administered as part of Mauritius until 1903, when they were constituted a crown colony. The first elections to a legislative council were held in 1948.
The Seychelles became self-governing in 1975 and gained independence within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1976. The first president, James Mancham, was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1977 and replaced by Albert René, the head of the Seychelles People's Progressive Front. René suspended the existing constitution and in 1979 established a presidential government and one-party rule. He also introduced significant social reforms, maintained ties with Western nations, and fostered economic diversification. A multiparty democracy was reestablished in the Seychelles under the new constitution of 1993; René won reelection in 1993, 1998, and 2001. He retired in 2004, and was succeeded by his vice president, James Michel. In 2006, Michel was elected president in his own right; he was reelected in 2011. In late 2008 the government sought financial rescue package from the International Monetary Fund as the world financial crisis and recession and the islands' high international debt strained the country's finances; as a result the government was forced to adopt austerity measures and fiscal reforms.
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