In the early colonial period, English and Dutch buccaneers preyed on Spanish shipping from there, and English loggers exploited the forest. England established a protective kingdom at Bluefields in 1678. Slaves from Jamaica were brought in to increase the labor supply. In 1848, the British took San Juan del Norte to offset U.S. interest in a transisthmian route to California. Nicaragua protested the seizure. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (1850) between the United States and Great Britain checked British expansion, but relinquishment of the coast was delayed until a separate treaty was concluded with Nicaragua (1860), which established the autonomy of the so-called Mosquito Kingdom.
In 1894, José Santos Zelaya ended the territory's anomalous position by forcibly incorporating it into Nicaragua. The northern part was awarded to Honduras in 1960 by the International Court of Justice, thus ending a long-standing dispute. The Miskitos clashed with Nicaragua's Sandinista government in the 1980s, and in 1987 they were officially given partial autonomy, including control over local natural resources. Little real change, however, has resulted, and the area remains impoverished. Land rights remain a source of conflict, and in more recent years there has been violent conflict between Miskitos and settlers seeking access to land and resources.
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