The earliest settlers in The Republic of Maldives probably hailed from southern India and they were later followed by Indo-European speakers from Sri Lanka between the fourth and fifth centuries BC. In the 12th century AD, sailors from East Africa and other Arab countries discovered the islands and began settling there. As a result, Maldivian ethnic identity today is a mixture of these cultures, and this is reinforced by religion and language.
The early history of the Maldives is unclear but a popular legend is that a Sinhalese prince named KoiMale was stranded with his bride, a Sri Lankan princess, in a Maldivian lagoon. He then decided to stay on to rule as the first sultan. The islands, over the centuries, have been occupied by sailors from countries on the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean littorals and the Islands development has been influenced by these cultures. The Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and subjugated and ruled the islands for 15 years (1558-73). They were driven away by the warrior-patriot Muhammad Thakurufar Al-Azam.
The British ruled Maldives from 1887 to 1965 but essentially the country has been governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968. In 1953, there was a brief, unsuccessful attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. After gaining independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to rule for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country adopted its present name.