** national histories the Caribbean

National Histories: Latin America--The Caribbean

Caribbean history sugar
Figure 1.--Sugar played a major role in Caribbean history. It was in high demand and the Carinbbean islands were ideal for its cultivation. It was, however, a labor intensive crop. When the Native American peoples were wiped out by abuse and Ruropean disases, the Spanish and subsequent European powers enslave large numbers of Africans to work on plantations. Here in a more benign era, a Jamaican boy enjoys a stalk of sugar cane.

South and Central America were the home of the great Native American civilizations. The isolation of the Americas probably explains the failure of Native American civilization to make the transition to the Bronze Age. Despite their impressive achievements, they were stone-age peolples and easily overcome by the Conqistadores. The Caribbean Native American people were at a much more primnitive level of social development. The Caribbean Native American tribes were almost totally wiped out by the Conquistadores, slave raiders, and European diseases to which isolated Native Americans had no immunity. The subsequent history of Caribbean is a colorful mix of exploration, sugar, rum, piracy, religious refugees, slavery, and now tourism. The European countries colonizing the Caribbean is more mixed than the sitution that developed on the mainland of South and Central America. The countries colonizing the various islands included: Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. The Spanish were the origionl colonial power, but gradually one island after another in the Lesser Antilles was taken over as Spanish naval power declined. Eventually the Spanish retained only the larger islands in the Greater Antilles. And at the end of the 19th Century the United States entered the Caribbean. The Caribbean became a center for piracy in the early colonia period. The Spanish treasure ships and the merchant vessels supplyong the increasingly prosperous colonies provided a host of enticing targets. With the destruction of the Native Americans, the Europeans imported African slaves to work the platantions they developed. The most important crop became sugar which generated vast fortunes, helping to finance the Industrial Revolution in England. The most important single was Haiti which generated enormous revenue for France. The French Revolution, however, inspired one of the few successful slave rebellions in history and the Hatians were able to even defy Napoleon. Slavery was finally ended in the 19th century, primarily because of the British Royal Navy operations. The economic prosperity in the Caribbean declined in the 19th century. Conditions vary from island to island. The British islands are the most prosperous. Cuba and Haiti are the poorest. Tourism has become an industry of major importance.



Antigua was settled by Native Americans, following the same paatern as most of the Caribbean islands. A primitive people leaving little archeological record were replaced by the Arawaks following the Cariibean arc. Sometime before the European conquest, the Carribs reached the island from Dominica. Columbus sihted the island (1493). He named it for a cathedral in Seville. The Spanish did not, however settle the island. Pirates did use the island, seeking timber and other supplies. They intriduced cattle which could then be caught for meat on subsequent visits. The islands of the Lesser Antilles were largely up for grabs in the 17th century. The Spanish had not settled them and because of the small populations could easily be seized with asmall naval force. The English were the first to settle the island. Edward Warner landed with a group from St. Kitts (1632). The first crops were tobacco, ginger, indigo and sugar. TheFrench attempted to seize the island, landing at Deep Bay (1666). They controlled the Island, however, for only 8 months. Angtigua was returned to the English under one of the terrms of the Treaty of Breda (1667). This was the only challenge to English control of Angigua. The history of the smaller islands (Barbuda and Redonda) is more complicated. Sugar quickly becae the principal crop. Christopher Codrington arrived from Barbados and resettled at Betty's Hope Estate. He introduced more efficent sugar technology (1684). Sugar is a labor-intensive crop and slaves began to be imported in large numbers to work on the plantations that turned to sugar. The English began to build forts to defend the Island (1672). The Royal Navy began work on a dockyard (1725). Ships of the West Indies squadron were subsequently serviced here. Major figures of the Royal Navy (Rodney, Hood, and Nelson) were stationed here. A slave rebellion planned by Prince Klaas was supressed (1736). The British abolished the slave trade (1807), but the slaves were not emancipated until three decaded later (1834). Antigua's sugar industry declined (1850s). The Royal Navy closed The Dockyard (1889). Britain granted the Island its indeendence (1981).

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (Dutch West Indies)


The Native American Arawak people were the first inhabitants of the Bahamas. They called themselves "Lukku-cairi" or island people which has become Lucayans. They appeared to have followed the Caribean arc north from South America (9th century AD). Native Americans from Florida settled western Cuna, but their presence in the Bahamas is unclear. It was in the Bahamas that Columbus first dropped anchor--San Salvador (1492). He named the inhabitants Indios (Indians) because he thought tht he had reached Asia. The Spanish did not, however, take much interest in the Bahamas. The many isolated islands provide a havent for the bucaneers that developed a major pirate activity. The English arrived in the Bahamas when the Eleutheran Adventurers left Bermuda in search of religious freedom (1647). They founded the first British colony on the Island of Eleuthera, setting up an agricultural settlement which still prospers today. Some American Loyalists after the Revolution began to settle in the Bahamas (1780s). They brought their slaves with them to establish about 40 plantations. The islands could not support intensive cotton farming for an extended period. For a while sponge diving was a major activity until the sponges were destroyed by a fungus. Gradually the economy shifted to small-scale subsistence farming and fishing. The Bahamas played a role in the Civil War. The Federal Navy blockaded the Southern Confederacy. Blockade runers tried to make the short run to Nassau where they could purchase badly needed supplies. In the 20th century tourism developed as a major part of the economy.


The Arawaks are the first Native Americam peoples have left an important archeological record in Barbados. It is unclear how they found the island in their dug-out canoes. Barbados is situated in the Atlntic, well east of the Caribbean Arc. The most likely explanation is that they were engaged in oceanic fishing. There was a substantial fall in the population which is believed to be related to the Carib conquest (about 1200 AD) Columbus found the Island on his first voyage (1492). The Portuguese stopped at the Island on the way to Brazil. Neither the Spanish or Portuguese settled the Island. The Portuguese did introduce the pigs that the British later found wild. They also provided the enduring name od the Island--Os Barbados (the Bearded Ones), perhaps because of the island's native fig trees. Some time in the 16th century, the Caribs disapeared. It is unclear precisely why, but European diseases and Spanish slave raiding are probably cotributing factors. England was the first European country to settle Barbados which at the time was no longer occupied (1620). Barbados became the first British colony in the Caribbean. Early crops were tobacco and cotton. Dutch sugar planters expelled from Brazil by the Portuguese helped bring sugar cultivation to the Caribbean (1640s). Sugar planters largely deforested the Island. Large-scale planters came to dominate the economy. As a small number of planters came to dominate, the number of ladless whites increased (1650s).Sugar proved enormously profitable and became the dominant crop. Africans were imported in large numbers to work the sugar plantations as slaves. As a result, the population became predominantely black. Large numbers, erghaps 30,000 emigrated to other islands, spreading the sugar economy. Some went to North America. A slave revolt occurred (1816). The British abolished slavery throughout the Empire after an even more serious slave revolt in Jamaica (1834). The British used Barbados as the administrative headquarters of the Windward Islands, but made the Island a separate colony (1885). Barbados was a member of the Federation of the West Indies as Britain moved its Caribbean colonies toward independence (1958-62). Britain granted independence (1966). It has functioned as a stable parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands were missed by Columbus on his earlier voyages when he focused on Cuba and Hispaniola. Finally he chanced chanced across the Caymans on his fourth voyage when the winds blew him off course (1503). He apparently came across an aribada and huge numbers of sea turtles and as a result named the Islands Las Tortugas. He encountered both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. No effort was made to settle the islands. A 1523 map showed all three islands and named them the Lagartos, meaning large lizards and is the origin of the English word aligator. The name Caymanas was in use by 1530. This was the Carib word for the marine crocodile which populated the islands. The first Englishman to reach the island was Sir Francis Drake, who reported "great serpents called Caymanas, like large lizards, which are edible" (1585-86)." Te principal early attractin was the sea turtes. They were very valuable to seamen in the days of sail because they could be stored live in holds and servedcas a source of fresh meat. So many ships stopped at the Caymans that thecsea turtle population was descimated. Local fishermen who depended on the turtles had to begin making extended voyages to Cuba and the Miskito Cays. The English established the first settlement. The English seized Jamaica from the Spanish and Sir Thomas Modyford as Governor of Jamaica attempted found a settlement on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac (1661-71). The English had to abandon the settlement because of attacks by Spanish priveteers. Spain recognised British possession of Jamiaica and the Caymans in the Treaty of Madrid (1670). This did not, however, end military action in the Caribbean. British privateers contibued to be active in the Caribbean, primarily because of the allure of Spanish treasure fleets. Privateering of course devoled into open ppiracy. And the Caymans without any goivernment authority was a place where the rivateers/pirates could obtain provisions. The Islands continued to be used by pirates into the 18th century, including the most notable ones like Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Neal Walker, George Lowther and Thomas Antis. The Treaty of Utrecht addressed the problem of piracy (1713), but did not immediately end it. The actual settlement of the Islands began with first royal grant of land in Grand Cayman. The Governor of Jamaica granted 3,000 acres in an area between Prospect and North Sound (1734). Others land grants followed through 1742. Thus a small English settlement developed which included Africans imported as slaves.


Cuba's written history began with Columbus' discovery of the island on his first voyage (1492). The Native Americans the Spanish encountered on the island were enslaved and largely exterminated. Africans were imported as slaves to replace them as a work force. Cuba spent most of its national life as a Spanish colony. An extended struggle for independence in the 19th century finally resulted in the defeat of the Spanish when the United States intervened as part of the Spanish-American War (1898). Cuba after independence was a country influenced, but not controlled by the Unites States. It was a country because of the four centuries of Spanish rule and slavery, a country with a elite and middleclass of European ancestry and a poor rural work mafe up of recently freed slaves of African ancestry. The Platt Amendment, a constututional control, was repealed by the Roosevelt Administration (1934). Subsequent Cuban history has been politicized by Castro and the Communists, just as it is in every totalitarian country. Basically totalitarians fear truth. The Cuban Communists claim that the Cuban Governments before the Revolution, especially the dictatorial Batista regime was corupt and that there were terrible social inquities which attracted organized crime and tourism. This is essentially correct, especially the criticm of Barista. What they do not mention was that Cuba was also prosperous with a growing economy and a middleclass committed to democracy. Castro's Revolution committed Cuba to a Soviet-style planned economy and dictatorial totalitarianism with like the Soviet Union, the trappings of egaltarianism and social justice, including racial equality. The problem for Cuba is the danger of having a leader able to make decisions without limitations. If the leader is wrong he can do terrible damage. And Castro was terribly wrong. Rather than totalitarian Socialim, the future lay with democracy and free markets. Socialism while it has had a role in humanizing capitalist states has proven a basically inefficent economic sysyem. The result is that Castro's Socialist Revolutuin has turned Cuba from one of the most prosperous Latin American countries to one of the poorest. As a result, the reforms such as free health care have proven indffective because Cuba is to poor to fund health care. Castro has ended the inquities in Cuban basically by making everyone poor. Castro has remained popular in left-wing circles in large part because of confrontation with the United States. Interestingly he accomplished this in part by making Cuba a part of the Soviet bloc. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a shocking experience for Castro. He allowed minimal free market reforms, including tourism which Castro once described as national prostitution. The basic economic problms remain. Cuban Communists have found a new economic sponsor--Chavez in oil rich Venezuela. The economic failure of Communist Cuba continues to require a foreign sponsor. Ironic because it is foreign involvement that is Castro's primary justification for the Revolution.


Dominica is one of the lesser know aribbean islands. The first humans to reach Dominica were the Ortoroids from South America (about 3100 BC). As with other islands in the Lesser Antilles , the outflow of the Orionoco and the South Equatorial Current helped Native Americans with primitive seafaring technology reach the islands. The Arawaks replaced the Ortoroids (about 400 AD). Jut before the arival of the Europeans, the Kalinago or Caribs began to invade the Aawak islands, including Dominica. They named the island Waitukubuli. Some historians believe that the Caribs are a Spanish creation, maning hostile Arawaks. This debate has not yet been resolved. Columbus encountered the island (1493). Columbus named the island Dominica as he landed on a Sunday. The Dominican natives managed to resist Spanish colonization who were more interested in richer lands to the West. Both the English and French tried to colonize the iland (1600s). The rivalry between the two colonial powers and the ferocity of its native defenders mnaged to dnd off colonzation for some time. The prize to be won did not justify the cost of a massive milirary campaign. Over time, the natives fought many bttles, but could not resist the power of the Europeans and their lack of resistance to European disease. Many of the suviving natives eventually fled the island. A few remained and Dominica today has the largest Native American community in the Caibbean, about 2,000 people, most live in the Carib Territory of northeastern Dominica. The French and British settlers imported African slaves as a workforce for sugar plantations. Thus slavery thus played a major role during the colonial period. Dominica became a British colony. The island achieved independence (1978). There was at first a few years of instability as some Dominicans were attracted by Cuban revoutionary thought. This soon passed as more Dominicas became aware of the political suppresion and economic failure that Castro and Communism brought to Cuba. Dominica gradually settled down as a stable, democratic country. The banana trade improved the island's economy, but was adversely affected when Britain joined the Common Market (modern European Union). A growing tourist industry has helped build a more stable economy. We note an imprtabt artist who settkled in Dominica, Agostino Brunias.

Dominican Republic

Columbus found Hispaniola on his first voyage (1492). He name the island La Española. He apointed his son Diego its first viceroy. The Spanish founded Santo Domingo (1496). It is thus the oldest permanent European settlement in the Americas. The western pat of the island or Haiti became dominated by France and proved to be a colony of enormous value because of the sugar plantations. At the onset of the French Revolution a slave rebellion broke out there and France found it incrasingly difficult to control Haiti. Spain ceded the eastern part of te island (the modern Dominican Republic) Revolutionary France (1795). Haitian blacks found an effective leader in Toussaint L'Ouverture who decisively defeated the French and seized the eastern part of tecisland as well (1801). The Spanish population in the east revolted (1808) and captured Santo Domingo (1809). They established the first Dominican republic. Spain after driving out Napoleob, regained title to the the Domnican Republic at the Congress of Vienna (1814). By this time, however, the Lain American wars of indepence were in full swing. The Doinicans ousted the royalists (1822). The Haitians invaded again (1822). The Dominicans outed te Haitains for a second time (1844). The Dominicans declared asecond republic under Pedro Santana. Uprisings. Haitian attacks continued and Santana made the Dominican Republic a Spanish province to secure Spanish military aid (1861-65). President Buenaventura Báez found an economy devestated by war with the Haitians. He negotiated a treaty of annexatin with the United States (1870). The U.S. Senate refused, however, to ratify the Treaty. A series of unstable governments followed until Ulíses Heureaux established a personal disctatorship. Further instability followed. President Wilson dispated marines to maintain order (1916). The Marines remain several years, finally dearting (1924). The Marines helped train a militry force to maintain order. Rafaél Leonides Trujillo Molina, a sergeant in the Dominican Army, overthrew President Horacio Vêsquez (1930). He established another dictatorship that luled the Dominican Republic for more than 30 years. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Dominican Republic Republic entered World War II, declaring war on Japan and Germany (Decemember 1941). Trujillo was assasinated (1961). Elections followed. Juan Bosch of the left-wing Dominican Revolutionary Party won the elections (1962). The right-wing military ousted President Bosch and set up a civilian triumvirate. Leftists refused to accept the new government and the country descended into chaos. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson dispached Marines again (1965). The United States helped negotiate a ceasefire and the two sides accepted Hector Garcia-Godoy as a provisional president to oversee new elections. Joaquin Balaguer, the right-wing candidate, defeated Bosch in a free election (1966). The U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew subsequently withdrew. Balaguer ruled the Dominican Republic for over 10 years. After it became apparent that he had the election for his fourth term, he ordered the Army to stop the ballot count (1978). President Jimmy Carter convinced him to accept his electoral defeat. Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party was declared the victor. Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party defeated both Balaguer and Bosch (1982). Balaguer won the presidency again (1986) and dominated the country for another 10 years.


Native Americans from South America first settled Trinidad. Grenada was the first step up the Caribbean Arc. It was a much more difficult undertaking, but probaably fishermen began the process. Columbus was the first Europen to encounter the Island (1498). He named it Concepcion, but Spanish sailors began calling it Grenada because it reminded them of the lish vegetation of Andalusia. The Spanish did not settle the Island, control was contested by the British and French. Here the Caribs tenaciously defended their Island. The Caribs throughout the 16th century repulsed European efforts to settle the Island. Finally a French expedition from Martinique purchased some land in the south with inexpensive trade goods (beads, knives, and hatchets). The French were intent on controlling the whole island and hostilities soon developed. The Caribs resisted the French, but were defeated in a series of battles (1690s). The last group of Caribs committed suiside by jumping to their deaths off a northern precipice--Le Morne de Sauteurs (Leapers' Hill). The British and French as part of their world-wide struggle vied for control of the Island. The French built Fort George and Fort Frederick to guard St. George's harbour. British control of Grenada was finally settled by the American Rvolution the the north. The French entered the War to assist the Americans. The Treaty of Versailles ending the conflict between the British and French awarded Grenada to the Britih (1783). The French heritage survives today in the contibued importance of the Catholic Church. The Briish proceeded to impot large numbers of slaves for new sugar plantations. Julian Fedon, a black planter was inspired by the principles of the French Revolution (1789). Fedon organized a slave rebellion. Fedon suceeded in effectively cotroling the island for a short period from a camp in the cecentral mountains. The British eventually defeated the rebellion. After another slave rebellion in Jamaica, the British emancipated the slaves. This was a result of both the British anti-slave movement and the high cost of supressing slave rebellions. The British made Grenada a Crown Colony (1877). It was made an associate state within the British Commonwealth (1967). The British granted full independence (1974). Maurice Bishop with Cuban help attempted to establish a Communist state (1979). The island descended into anarchy and Bishop was arrested and shot by former colleagues. The Governor General requested foreign assistance. An American rescue mission orderd in by President Reagan reestablished order. Jamaica, and the Eastern Caribbean States assisted in the process (1983). A general election re-established democratic government (1984). Grenada in recent years has pursued the development of its tourist industry. Here a major challenge is protecting the natural environment the industry is based on. Grenada has set up national parks and greater attention is being given to the rain forest and the coral reefs. The American intervention eliminated another Communist/Soviet-Cuban outpost in the Caribbean. It was thus a useful strategic move.


The first inhabitants of Guadeloupe for which much evidence exists is the Arawaks (about the 3rd century BC). They were particularly skilled fishermen. They were defeated or driven off the island by the Caribs (9th century AD). Columbus reached the Iskland on his second voyage and named it Guadeloupe (1493). The Spanish never settled the island. It was the French who colonized the Island. The Compagnie des Isles d'Amérique settled farmers from Normandie, Bretagne and Charente (1635). Armed encounters with the Caribs followed and they were soon killedcoff in the fighting and by exposure to European diseases. The French began importing captive Africans as a slave work force. The Compagnie was disappointe with the economic returns and sold the Guadeloupe to Charles Houël . It was Houël who ascgovenor began to develop the Island as a commercially successful colony. He promoted the founding of plantations growing sugar, coffee and cocoa. Control of Guadeloupe passed to the Compagnie des Indes and then King Louis XIV. Both the Dutch and English attempted o seize the Island. Other crops were introduced, including cotton and spices. Guadeloupe was affected by piracy (18th century). The French Revolution affected all of te French Caribbean Island. The Convention prohibited slavery (1794). Victor Hugues was dispatched to oversee emancipation. Many plantation owners were loyal to the king and resisted emancipation. Many were executed with new Guillotine. Napoléon reinstated slavery (1802). Louis Delgrès resisted the reinstituion of slavery. The British prohibited the slave trade (1807). The Congress of Vienna restored Guadeloupe to France (1815). Viktor Schoelcher founded the Société Abolitionniste. The French parliament finally abolish slavery (1848). The Planters did not wnt to pay the freed slaves much and they in turn had little desire to work for their former masters. The planters thus recruited "coolies" in India and China. Many local planters could not make a profit when they had to pay theor workers. Gradually foreign companies took over the plantations. Falling sugar prices impaired the local economy resulting in demonstrations and strikes. Guadeloupe voters elected socialist parlementarians: Légitimus and Achille-René Boisneuf. The Island after World War II began diversifying with bananas, pineapples, and rice. Sugar and rum, however, continue to be the main exports. France made Guadeloupe a French Overseas Department (1946).


Columbus discoverd the island of Hispaniola on his first voyage (1492). It became an important part of the Spanish Main. Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to the French at the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). The French colony becomes Saint Domingue. Saint Domingue in the 18th centuryb became the richest colony in the America. The capital, Cap Français, becomes known as the Paris of the New World. It becomes as slave colony sedicated to the production of sugar--a commodity of unprecedented value. The French operated Saint Domingue with unprecedented cruelty even in an age in which slavery played an important role. The 0.5 million slaves on the island were terrorized into submission. Floggings were common place. Slaves were punished for minor offences with starvation or even being buried alive. The French Revolution occured in France and the reverbreations soon reach Saint Domingue (1789). Whites on the island are split. They turn their eire on Mullatos when the French National Assemby approves modest legislation about their status. A Voodoo houngan named Boukman launches the ininital slave rebellion (1791). The French are unable to maintain control. The slaves emerge victorious, fighting off Naopleon's and British efforts to see the valuable colony. It is one of the few examples in history of a successful slave rebellion. Haitains declared an independent republic (1804). The country is never able to develop the Haitain economy. And what was the richest colony in the Americas gradualy evolved into one of the poorest countries in the world.


Jamaica was inhabited by the Arawak when Coumbus found it (1494). He named it St. Iago. Columbus was marooned on Jamaica during his last voyage. It was first settled by his son Diego (1509). The Spanish wiped out the native Taino population. Here both mistreatment and disease were factors. They began importing Africans as slaves for labor. The colonial economy was based on sugar. The English tried to take the island (1596 and 1643). The English finally gained possession (1655). The Spanish formally ceded it to Britain (1670). Jamaica was the only one of the large Caribbean islands that Britain managed to seize from the Spanish. Buccaneers operated from island, especially Port Royal. Jamaica was a basec for captain Henry Morgan, one of the most famous Bucaneers. Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake (1692). It became the largest and most profitable British island in the Caribbean. The slaves endured horendous conditoions on the island's plantations. British planters were harassed by the Maroons, armed bands of escaped slaves attacking isolated plantations. The British outlawed the slave trade during the Napoleonic Wars (1807). The British put down a slave rebelion, but at great cost (1831). While the slaves failed to win their freedom, the Jamaican revolt had a frofound impact on Britain's abolition movement. The great loss of property and life promted two Parliament inquiries. The difficuly of mauntaining slavery on the island combined with Wilberforce's Christian-based crusade eventually led to British abolition (1833). A decline in sugar prices led to a depression that caused an uprising (1865). Jamaica became a Crown colony (1866) Conditions for the freed slaves gradually improved. The introduction of bananas helped increase food production and reduced the dependence on sugar. Britain granted internal autonomy (1958). Jamaica participated in the West Indies Federation (1958). Nationalist politicans like labor leader, Sir Alexander Bustamente, pushed to withdraw from the Federation and declare independence. Jamaica conducted aeferendum for independence. Britain granted independence (1962). Michael Manley, of the socialist People's National Party, became prime minister (1972). For a time it looked like Jamaica might persue a radical left-wing parth. The economy declined under Manly which affected his popularity. The Labour Party defeated Manley in an intensely partisan campaign (1980). Labour's free market-oriented leader, Edward P. G. Seaga, was elected prime minister. Seaga encouraged private investment and initiated an austerity program.


Marinique had a florishing Native American popultion. Martinique was settled by the Arawaks (Tainos). It was just before the European discovery, over ran by a more war-like people--the Caribs. The Caribs originated in northeastern South America and were related to the Galibi people in the modern Guianas. At the time of the Europen discovery were migrating along the Caribbean arc and overwealming the Aawaks. They referred to the Island as Madinina (the island of flowers) as it was at the time a verdant place, a luxuriant rain forest. It was also called Mantinino (the island of women), but I am not sure why. Columbus ws the first European to visit the Island (1502). Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII's Prime Minister, founded the Compagnie des Iles d'Amérique (American Islands Company) to exploit economically the economic potential of the Caribbean (1626). The French settlement began with an expedition led by Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, a Norman noble (1635). He settled along the western coast, near modern of Saint Pierre. The first crops were tobacco and cotton. Problems developed with the Caribs which led to open hstilities. The French decisively defeated them (1658). Most were slaughtered. Survivors fled to neighboring St. Martin and Dominica when their descendents can today be found in a reserve. Some Caribs survived and mixed with the French indentured workers (3-year contracts) and a small number of African slaves purchased from the Spanish. Dutch sugar plantrs expelled from Brazil by the Portuguese brought sugar to the island which dramatically changed the economy of the island and its importance. Martinique and other Carribean Islands becomes a major sugar producer by the end of the 17th century. Africans were imported in large numbers as aslave labor force on the new sugar plantations. As a result, slavery became estblished on the island to work on the labor intensive sugar plantations. Martinique supported Frace during World War I. The island was affected by the Depression and falling workd demand for sugar. The fall of France in World War II (1940) created security concerns over the Panama Canal. Authorities on the island were loyal to the Vichy regime which collaborated with the NAZIs. Some Frenvh naval vessels were interned in Mrinique. The Islnd finally swubg over to the Free Frebnch (1943).


Netherlands Antilles

The Netherlands was a major naval power (16th century. This was a primary factor in its ability to achieve and maintain power from the German Hapsburgs, the Spanish Hapsburgs and the French Burbons, all the major powers of the day. Over the long run, however, the Dutch had too small a country to generate the naval power needed to gain and maintain possession of the more valuable Caribbean islands that supported larger sugar plantations. This was a matter of some importance because in the 18th century, Caribbean sugar islands became some of the most vluable realestate in the world. France even gave upCanada rather than lose Guadeloupe and Martinique. The Dutch were able to retain control of several islands know collectively as the Netherlands Antilles or Dutch West Indies. Each island has its own history. Dutch colonization began before the Caribbean sugar industry was founded. The Dutch first seized Sint Maarten to control large salt deposits (1630). The Spanish reconquered the island anbd held it for a time. The Dutch West India Company (WIC) seized Curaçao which would become the cenbter of Dutch power in the Caribbean (1634). The Dutch than seized Bonaire and Aruba (1636). The WIC colonized and governed the Leeward Islands. Curaçao and Sint Eustatius became centers for smuggling, privateering, and the slave trade after the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Curaçao and Bonaire never participated in the sugar trade. The arid climate precluded sugar plantations, but Dutch and Sephardic Jewish merchants on Curaçao sold trade goods and slaves from Africa to the English and French plantaters on the various islnds as well as the Spanish mainland. Bonaire was less involved in trade, but salt flats was exploited and cattle ranching pursued. There was a market with passing trade and on were bred for trade and food on Curaçao. until the wars betweem France anbd the British began following the French Revolution (1791). The British began attacking French islands and the Dutch islnds as well, because the Frnch seized the Netherlands. The British occupied Curaçao (1801-03 and 1807-16). Aruba has seceded, but the ilands have not moved toward ndependence.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was inhabited by the Arawak (Taíno) Native Americans. They called the island Borinquen and the Borinquen are today seen as a sub group of the Arawaks. Puerto Rico was one of the first Spanish colonies in the New World. Columbus landed on the island during his second voyage (1493). The Spanish enslaved the Native American population they found on the island and through mistreatment and exposure to European diseases they quickly died out. Many Tainos were killed in an uprising against the Spanish (1506). The Spanish than began importing black Africans to work as slaves. Puerto Rico did not have much of the gold the Spanish were seeking. The main crop quickly became sugar. The Spanish because of the strategic importance of the island built a massive fortification at San Juan--El Moro. The island gradually became a backwater of the Spanish Empire. Puerto Rico and Cuba were after the war of liberation on the mainland, the last two Spanish coloniesin the New World. The Spanish King issued a 'Cedula de Gracia' to increase the European population of Puerto Rico which ws largely slaves of African discent. The Crown awarded land grants to immigrants (early 19th century). The Puerto Rican abolitionist movement persued an extended struggle to end slavery on the island. Cuba and Puerto Rico were some of the last places in the Americas where slavery persisted. The Spanish National Assembly finally abolished slavery in Puerto Rico (1873). This left Brazil as the last bastion of slavery in the America. The United States liberated both islands from Spanish colobial rule in the Spanish American War (1898). The major battles of the War were fought on Cuba which had a substantial Spanish garrison. The Foraker Act established a civil government (1900). The Jones Act granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship (1917). This layed the foundatin for the drafting of Puerto Rico's Constitution and the holding of democratic elections (1952). Puerto Rico became an American Commonwealth, a status the island still has. There is no consensus in Puerto Rico about seeking statehood or independence.

St. Kitts (Christopher) and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis are small Caribbean Islands that forms part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. They are located in the morthern Lesser Antilles. Because they are located so close together they have experienced the same historical experience and have been grouped together as a single colony and modern state. The islands were originally populated ny Amerindians migrating north from the Orionoco Basin (Guinas and Venezuela). This was the same migratory wave that populatd mostbof the Caribbean. The islands were sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage (1493. The Spanish did not settle many of the smaller islands like St Kitts because their attention was focused on the larger islands (Santo Domingo and Cuba) and im short order the Anerican mainland where they encontered wealthy Amerindian empires. Englishman Sir Thomas Warner led the first European group to settle St Kitts (1623). The French also settled on the island at about the same time (1624). The English settled Nevis (1628). The Spanish launched a major attack (1629). Spain did nor want thevislands, but siught to prevent doreign encrochments in the Caribbeam--the Spamish Main. For the next two centuries, these two great powers fought over the two tiny islands (17th and 18th centuries). As Spanish power declined, it became a cinrst between Engkand and France. The first important crop was tobacco, nur was soon replaced by sugar. While small, the islands were suitable for growing sugar, a fabuloudly proftable crop making St Kitts and other small Caribbean islands a target of great power rivalry. Sugar plantations were established by the English and French using enslaved Africans who labored under horific, brural conditions. These settlements were subject to attack by the English, French, and Spanish, mostly on St Kitts with condiderable damage to the economy, meaning the sugar operations. English and French planters made great fortunes, One example was the English Marsham family. The ownership of St Kitts was not finally determinned until the Treaty of Versailles which settked the American Revolution (1783). The British administered the islands along with nearby Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, as a single colony (1816). When Britain abloished the slave trade (1807) and then slavery itself (1833-34), sugar became a less valuable commodity. St. Kitts and the Caribbeann in general became colonial backwaters. The British formed the Leeward Islands Federation (1871). ST. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla joined and association with Britain (1967). Anguillans opposed the varrangement. Britain and St. Kitts/Nevis accepoted cthe seapartion of Anguilla. Anguilla reamined a British dependency as St. Kitts/Nevis moved toward independence. The Federation of St Christopher and Nevis was granted internal self-government (1976) and independence (1983). Voters decided on a constitutional monarchy with the British momarch as head of state.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia was settled by the Arawaks ((3rd century AD). The Caribs overcame the Arawaks (9th century AD). The Native American peoples called the island "Iouanalao" and "Hewanorra" which meant "Island of the Iguanas." Columbus is believed to have first sighted the Island (1502). Some historians believe the first Europan to sight the Island was Juan de la Cosa although te date of discovery is disputed (1499). He once served under Columbus as a navigator. The discovery is uncertain in part because no European settled the island at the time. The forst Europeans to arrive on the Island were pirates (1550s). Francois le Clerc (Jambe de Bois/Peg Leg) estanlished a base for his operations on Pigeon Island. He targeted Spanish treasure galleons. The Dutch were the first Europeans to attempt to hold St. Lucia. They built a fortified base at Vieux Fort (about 1600). The first colonization project was an accident. A group of English colonists on the Olive Branch headed for Guyana was blown off course and landed on St. Lucia (1605). The 67 settlers purchased land from the Caribs. Most died or were killed by the Caribs within a month, 19 survivors fled the Island in a canoe. A second English group also failed (1639). The French arived soon after and the French West India Company "purchased" the Island. This began a long term struggle for control of St. Lucia, part of a world-wide struggle between Britain and France that was not ended until Waterloo (1815). The first successful settlements were French. The first was Soufriere (1746). The French settlement grew and 12 settlments and a number of sugar plantations were established. As elsewhere in the Caribbean, captive Africans were enslaved to work the sugar plantations. And as a result the population of the island became largely black. The first British invasion, the "Battle of Cul de Sac, occured during the American Revolutin which France joined (1778). The British launched several additional attacks during the conflicts assoiciated with the French Revolution and Napoleonic War. Nelson's victory at Trafalgur (1805) and the ensuing British command of the sea meant that the French could not effectively defend St. Lucia. The British finally seized control (1814). Britain granted independence within the Commonwealth (1979). The local creole dialect is testimony to the French colonial foundation. St. Lucia as an independent country has proven to be a stable, multicultural democracy.

St. Martins/St. Maartens

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The Caribs reached St. Vincent only shortly before the European discovery. Columbus explored the Island (1498). The Spanish did not settle the Island. It was claimed by both the British and French. The British claim was settled by the Treatty of Paris whih ended the Seven Years War (1763). St. Vincent and the Grenadines were one of the few islands where the Caribs continued to hold out into the 18th century. Negotiations between the British and Caribs dresulted in a division of the Islands (1773). This did not prevent conflicts. The Caribs revolted and were decisively defeated by the Britush (1776). The British deported most of the surviving Caribs to the Bay Islands in the Gulf of Honduras. The British introduced the sugar industry and imported African slaves. Portuguese and East Indian laborers were also brought to the Islands. The Islands was part of the West Indies Federation (1958-62). Britain granted home rule as part of the West Indies Associated States (1969). Britain granted full indepensence (1979). The country faced some terrible natural disasters. Mount Soufrière erupted (April 1979( and the norther part of the Island had to be evacuated. The result was a total disruption of the economy. Prime Minister Milton Cato had to deal with a rebellion (December 8, 1979). This was followed by Hurricane Allen (1980) which futher damaged the fragil economy--destroying the important banana harvest. The economy has slowly recovered. The European Union's more favoral treatment of St. Vincent bananas was an important step (1999). The Government has been working to diversify the economy and has made some progress with tourism. The country has established a stable partimentary democracy. The Unity Labour Party (ULP) unexpectely upset the ruling party (2001). The ULP was led by Ralph Gonsalves, a lawyer, who became the new prime minister. He was reelected (2005).


Trinidad was the first Caribbean Island to be settled by Native Aericans. It is visible from the South American mainland and easily accessible on even ptimitive dug-out canones. The spread to the islands of the Caribbean Arc was a much more difficult undertaking. Trinidad and Tobago proved to be a much sought after prize in the colonial wars that followed the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus claimed Trinidad for Spain (1498). The Spanish established the first settlement (1532), but an English force commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh destroyed the settlement (1595). The English were, however, unable to hold on to the Island and the Spanish reestablished control. The Spanish colonial epoch lasted three centuries and is reflected in the name of the capital--Port of Spain. The British took cotrol of the island again as a result of the European wars initiated by the French Revolution. A British naval force seized the island. Spain ceded the island under theterms of the Treaty of Amiens (1802). The British seized Tobago durig the Napoleonic Wars (1803). The history of the smaller island of Tobago is a little more complicated. The Dutch who were a major naval power at the time raided and then seized Tobago from the Spanish (1630s). They introduced sugar cane. The French who were allied with the Spanish during the American War for Independence seized Tobago (1781). They greatly expnded the sugar planttions importing more Africans to work as slaves. The British who had seized Trinidad took possession of Tobago after the Napoleonic wars (1814). After slavery was abolished there was a severe shortage of labor in the Caribbean islands like Canada. The British introduced the Coolie Labor System, importing indentured labor from Asia, primarily China and India. The British amalgamated Trinidad and Tobago to administer as a single unified colony (1888). Trinidad was the site of important military bases during World War II, including American facilities. The British began making major reforms after World War II, introducing adult suffrage (1945). The British sponsored the West Indies Federation believng thatvthe individual islands were too small for independence. The Federation proved unpopular for the independent-minded peoples involved and the Federation Caribbean peoples thought otherwise and the Federation collapsed. Britain grnted the Island independence (1962). Eric Williams dominated independent Trinidad for two decadeds. Williams served as primeminister from independence until his death (1981). Williams headed the People's National Movement (PNM) which was the dominant political party until the mid-1980s. Unlike some Caribbean islands, Trinidad has been generally stable since independence. An Islamic militant group seized Parliament (1990). The Government promised reforms and the militants released the hostages, including the country's prime minister. The Islamic militants were granted amnesty (1992).

Turks and Caicos

Virgin Islands

Native American residents of the Virgin Islands included the Ciboney, Arawaks, and Caribs. Columbus sighted the Islands and was impressed with their beauty (1493). He named them the Virgins in honor of St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. Te Native Americans cntibued to inhabit the Islands through much of the 16th century. Europeans reported the presene of Native Americans as alate as 1585, but theislands were eventually abanonded. It is unclear just why, Slave raiders from nearby Puerto Rico may have been the reason. And the Native Americans may have sucumed to European diseases. Europen countries vied for control of the Islands. The Spanish had an advantage because of the nearby colony of Puerto Rico, a relatively large colony. In the end, however, control of the Virgins would be a matter of naval power and European diplomacy. England and the Netherlands in a rare act of colonial cooperation jointly established a settlement on St. Croix (1620s). The Spanish attacked the small, vulnerable settlement. Next the French took possession ad controlled St. Croix for a century. The Danish West India Company first attempted to settle St. Thomas (1665). A subsequent effort suceded (1672). The Danish began with 113 settlers. They next settled St. John (1694). The Danes rapidly developed a plantation-based economy. The Danish West Indian Company purchased St. Croix from the French (1733). The three islands became known as the Danish West Indies. Denmark did not have a powerful navy which was needed to sustanin Caribbean colonies. The Danes did, however, maintain generally friendly relatins with the British which thus enabled them to retain their islands while the British, Dutch, French, and Spanish fought each other for control of the Caribbean. The Virgins remained Danish until World War I. War in Europe raised American concern about the security of the Panama Canal. Denmark remained neutral in the War, but had no substantial army. This left it vulnerable to Germany which had apowerful highseas fleet. The United States negotiated the purchase of the Islands for $25 million (1917). The Danes insisted on payment in gold. The Danish West Indies thus became the U.S. Virgin Islands.


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Created: 1:54 AM 11/7/2007
Last updated: 7:58 AM 4/24/2020