The islands were first inhabited by Arawak and Carib people, who settled here from the South American mainland, and whose descendants make up a small minority of the population. Trinidad was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who claimed it for Spain.The Spaniards brought their diseases but the Arawaks and Caribs were not used to their diseases so some soon died out. Under Spanish rule, large numbers of French settlers established cocoa plantations in Trinidad and imported slaves to work them. The British seized the island in 1798, and abolished slavery. To make up for the labor shortage the government encouraged heavy immigration from countries such as Portugal, France, Germany, China, and most importantly India.