History of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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Kingstown, St. Vincent, 1890s

Before the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the 16th century, various Amerindian groups passed through or settled on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib peoples. These groups likely originated in the Orinoco Valley of South America and migrated north through Trinidad and the Lesser Antilles. By the time Christopher Columbus passed near St. Vincent on his fourth voyage in 1502, the Caribs occupied the island after displacing the Arawaks a few centuries earlier.

Early European contacts[edit]

Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors largely ignored St. Vincent and the smaller Grenadine islands nearby, but focused instead on the pursuit of gold and silver in Central and South America. They did embark on slaving expeditions in and around St. Vincent following royal sanction in 1511, driving the Carib inhabitants to the rugged interior, but the Spanish made no attempt to settle the island.[1] Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia or Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs". Now those of mixed African-Carib ancestry are known as Garifuna.

French colony[edit]

While the English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, the French centered on the island of Martinique would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent in 1719.[2] The French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, corn, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves. St. Vincent was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1763), after which friction between the British and the Caribs led to the First Carib War. The island was restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1783).

Conflict between the British and the black Caribs continued until 1796, when General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. The British deported more than 5,000 black Caribs to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.

British colony[edit]

Engraving 'after Agostino Brunias' (ca 1801) entitled A Negro Festival drawn from Nature in the Island of St Vincent. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776. Decades after the success of the Haitian Revolution, the British abolished slavery in 1834. The resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and East Indians in the 1860s as laborers. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the 20th century.

A Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a Legislative Council created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage granted in 1951. During this period, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in order to govern the region through a unified administration. The most notable was the West Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962.

Self-rule and independence[edit]

St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status on October 27, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. It celebrates independence on 27 October 1979.

Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufrière erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage.

The island also suffers from hurricanes. On September 11, 1898, six hours of a terrible hurricane devastated Barrouallie, which was almost completely destroyed. More recently, in 1980 and 1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active hurricane seasons, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rogozinski, January 2000. A Brief History of the Caribbean: From the Arawak and Carib to the Present. Plume, New York, New York.
  2. ^ http://svgancestry.com/index.php/st-vincent-timeline/

Further reading[edit]

  • Gonsalves, Ralph E. 2007. History and the Future: A Caribbean Perspective. Quik-Print, Kingstown, St. Vincent.
  • Morse, J. (1797). "St. Vincent". The American Gazetteer. Boston, Massachusetts: At the presses of S. Hall, and Thomas & Andrews. 
  • Rogozinski, January 2000. A Brief History of the Caribbean: From the Arawak and Carib to the Present. Plume, New York, New York.
  • Williams, Eric. 1964. British Historians and the West Indies, P.N.M. Publishing, Port-of-Spain.

External links[edit]