Arguin (Arguim) is an island off the western coast of Mauritania in the Bay of Arguin, at 20° 36' N., 16° 27' W. It is six km long by two broad. Off the island are extensive and dangerous reefs. It is now part of The Banc d'Arguin National Park.
Arguin has long been coveted by seafaring nations for its strategic location, and control over the island has changed hands numerous times. The first European to visit the island was the Portuguese explorer Nuno Tristão in 1443. In 1445, Prince Henry the Navigator set up a trading post on the island, which acquired gum arabic and slaves for Portugal. By 1455, 800 slaves were shipped from Arguin to Portugal every year.
In 1633, during its war against Spain (which then controlled Portugal), the Netherlands seized control of Arguin. It remained under Dutch rule until 1678, although Dutch governance was interrupted by English rule in 1665. France briefly controlled the island in September 1678, but the island was then abandoned until 1685.
Arguin was an early colony of the German electorate of Brandenburg, and its succeeding Kingdom of Prussia from 1685 1721. France then took control of the island, only to lose it the following year to the Netherlands, before regaining it in 1724. This next period of French rule lasted four years; in 1728 it reverted to Mauritanian tribal chiefs. The island became a French possession once more during the early 20th century, as part of French-colonized Mauritania; it remained under Mauritanian rule when that country became independent in 1960.
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