Antigua was claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and settled by the British some 140 years later. Tobacco and sugar were the two commercial mainstays but with slavery abolished in 1834, several natural disasters occurring in the 1840s, and the closing of a Royal Dockyard in 1854, the economy suffered. Independence was granted in 1981 and the Antigua Labor Party remains at the government helm. Tourism forms the principal economic base of the country today.