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The Spanish took possession of Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba, known as the Leeward group, in 1527. In 1634 the three islands passed to the Netherlands with which they have remained except for two short periods during the Napoleonic Wars when the British ruled at Willemstad. Curaçao, the center of Caribbean slave trade during the colonial period, lost much of its economic importance after emancipation of the slaves in 1863. In 1986 Aruba was constitutionally separated from the Netherlands Antilles.
The Windward group, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, also considered a part of the Netherlands Antilles, changed hands often during the 17th and 18th centuries. All three have been under uninterrupted Dutch rule since the beginning of the 19th century.
1499 - The first Europeans recorded as seeing the island were members of a Spanish expedition
1634 - After the Netherlands achieved independence from Spain caused by Eighty Years' War, Dutch colonists started to occupy the island
1795 - A major slave revolt took place and up to 4000 slaves on the northwest section of the island revolted
1815 - Stable Dutch rule returned at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the island was incorporated into the colony of Curaçao and Dependencies. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island changed hands among the British, the French, and the Dutch several times. In the early 19th century, Portuguese and Lebanese migrated to Curaçao, attracted by the business opportunities
1914 - Oil was discovered in the Maracaibo Basin town of Mene Grande, and refineries were built on Aruba and Curaçao
2010 - The dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles came into effect on 10 October 2010 when Curaçao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy