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History of Saint Lucia

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History of Saint Lucia


History of Saint LuciaSummary: Saint Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery.
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    History of Saint Lucia

    Pre-European People
    Saint Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery.

    St. Lucia Coat of Arms    St. Lucia Flag

    Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period from 800 to 1000 A.D. They called the island Hiwanarau, and later Hewanorra, which is now the name used for the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort. The Caribs had a complex society, with hereditary kings and shamans. Their war canoes could hold more than 100 men and were fast enough to catch a sailing ship. They were later feared by the Europeans because of stories of violence and cannibalism, but much of this was probably exaggeration on the part of the Europeans. The Caribs were usually generous until attacked or deceived (which are situations common to much of European colonial history).

    European invasion
    Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from Caribs whose land they were occupying.

    1600s
    Although the French pirate Francois de Clerc (also known as Jamb de Bois, due to his wooden leg) frequented Saint Lucia in the 1550s, it wasn't until years later, around 1600, that the first European camp was started by the Dutch, at Vieux Fort. In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia but after 5 weeks only 19 of them remained due to disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island.

    The French officially claimed the island in 1635 but it was the English that started the next European settlement in 1639, which was wiped out by the Caribs. It was not until 1651 that the French came, this time from Martinique, commanded by De Rousselan, who held the island until his death in 1654.

    In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1000 men there to defend it from the French, but after 2 years there were only 89 left, mostly due to disease. For years after this, the island was official traded back and forth between the English and the French in various treaties, as a bargaining chip.

    1700s
    The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered on Martinique, found St. Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed in 1765. Colonists who came over were mostly indentured white servants serving a small percentage of wealthy merchants or nobles. Conflict with the Caribs increased as more and more land was taken.

    Near the end of the century, the French Revolution occurred, and a revolutionary tribunal was sent to Saint Lucia, headed by captain La Crosse. Bringing the ideas of the revolution to Saint Lucia, he set up a guillotine that was used to execute Royalists. In 1794, the French governor of the island declared that all slaves were free, but only a short time later the British invaded again in response to the concerns of the wealthy plantation owners, and restored slavery after years of fighting. Castries was burned in 1796 as part of that battle between the British and the slaves and French republicans.

    1800s
    Britain eventually triumphed, with France permanently ceding Saint Lucia in 1815. The British had abolished the slave trade in 1808, 3 years after slaves in Haiti gained their independence as the first Black republic in the caribbean, but it wasn't until 1838 that slavery was actually abolished on Saint Lucia. Even after slavery was officially abolished, all former slaves had to serve a four-year "apprenticeship" which forced them to work for free for their former slavemasters for at least three quarters of the work week.

    Also in 1838, Saint Lucia was incorporated into the British Windward Islands administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when the capital was moved to Grenada.

    1900s to present day
    Increasing self-government has marked St. Lucia's 20th century history. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of representative government, with a minority of elected members in the previously all-nominated legislative council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority of the council. Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six windward and leeward islands--Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla, and St. Lucia--developed a novel form of cooperation called associated statehood.

    As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St. Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom. This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia achieved full independence. St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean community and common market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).




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