The islands were first discovered by Portuguese navigators between 1469 and 1472. The first successful settlement of Sao Tome was established in 1493 by Alvaro Caminha, who received the land as a grant from the Portuguese crown. Principe was settled in 1500 under a similar arrangement.
Attracting settlers proved difficult, however, and most of the earliest inhabitants were "undesirables,"sent from Portugal , mostly Jews. In time these settlers found the excelent volcanic soil of the region suitable for agriculture, specially the growing of sugar.
Sao Tome and Principe were taken over by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573, respectively.
Sugar cultivation declined over the next 100 years, and by the mid-1600s, Sao Tome was little more than a port of call for bunkering ships. In the early 1800s two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were introuced, which was well suited to the soil. By 1908, Sao Tome became the largest producer of cocoa. It is still the country's most important crop.
Although Portugals ,officially, abolished slavery in 1876, the practice of forced paid labour continued.A sporadic labour unrest in 20th. century culminated in a riots with portuguese rulers which caused several hundreds of Africans lifes. This was known as "Batepa massacre."
By the late 1950s a small group of Sao Tomeans had formed the Movement for the liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP), which had its base in nearby Gabon, got momentum in the 1960s. At the same time Salazar and Caetano dictator in Portugal was overthrown in 1974 which changed the attitude of Portugal for the transfer of sovereignty leading to the achievement of Independence on July 1975 by the Sao Tome and Principe.
The first President was Manuel Pinto da costa.