The British Virgin Islands (often abbreviated BVI), officially the Virgin Islands, are a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, to the east of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and north-west of Anguilla. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles and part of the West Indies.
The British Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with more than 50 other smaller islands and cays. About 16 of the islands are inhabited. The capital, Road Town, is on Tortola, the largest island, which is about 20 km long and 5 km wide. The islands had a population of 28,054 at the 2010 Census, of whom 23,491 lived on Tortola. British Virgin Islanders are British Overseas Territories citizens and since 2002 are British citizens as well.
The islands were named "Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes" by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after the legend of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. The name was later shortened to "the Virgin Islands". The official name of the territory is still simply the "Virgin Islands", but the prefix "British" is often used. This is commonly believed to distinguish it from the neighbouring American territory which changed its name from the "Danish West Indies" to "Virgin Islands of the United States" in 1917. However, local historians have disputed this, pointing to a variety of publications and public records dating from between 21 February 1857 and 12 September 1919 where the Territory is referred to as the British Virgin Islands.
The Dutch established a permanent settlement on the island of Tortola by 1648 as part of the Dutch West Indies, frequently clashing with the Spanish who were based on nearby Puerto Rico. In 1672, the English captured Tortola from the Dutch, and the English annexation of Anegada and Virgin Gorda followed in 1680. The territory gained autonomy with the Constitution of 1967, enacted on 23 March 1967.
The official currency of the British Virgin Islands has been the United States dollar (US$) since 1959, the currency also used by the United States Virgin Islands. The country also authorises private mints to issue bullion and commemorative coins, denominated in a British Virgin Islands variant of the dollar.
The head of state is the British monarch, whose effigy and legend are displayed on the bullion and commemorative coinage.