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History of Grenada

The Arawaks were probably the first settlers in what is today known as Grenada, however later, perhaps as early as the 1100s the Caribs arrived and either drove the Arawaks off the island or intermarried them.

The island was first found by Europeans in 1498 when Christopher Columbus saw the island. Despite this early "discovery" of the island, it remained almost untouched by the European powers through the 1500s. In 1609 the British attempted to settle the island, but the local Carib people fought this act and destroyed the settlement, leaving it abandoned in the same year.

Next came the French in 1649 when they created a settlement in what is today St. George. The French had more luck than the British as they immediately established relations with the local Carib people and partitioned the island. This peace was short lived and soon the two sides were fighting, with the French proving a decisive victory in 1654.

In 1664 French King Louis XIV took the island under the jurisdiction of the French West India Company. This only lasted until 1674 though, when the island became an official French colony. Almost immediately from this time slaves were brought to the island to work the land and by 1700 the slave population was about twice that of the free population, most of whom were French. These slaves were brought in to work on sugarcane and indigo plantations. Over time this slowly shifted to the growth of coffee and cocoa, creating smaller farms and fewer plantations and much later the economy shifted almost entirely to the growth of nutmeg.

In 1762 the British took control of the island during the Seven Years' War and the island was officially ceded to the United Kingdom the following year. The Brits faced numerous challenges on the island almost immediately with an earthquake and slave uprising taking place within a couple years. The British rule continued for some time, but with a hiatus from 1779 to 1783 when the French re-took the island.

In 1795 a slave uprising occurred and almost succeeded, however the British brought in re-enforcements and destroyed the revolt in 1796; these battles though killed nearly a quarter of the island's slave population. These slaves were freed under British law in the early 1800s.

In 1833 Grenada became a part of the Windward Islands Administration, which is the government under which they lived until 1958; this was a part of the British government. In 1885 the capital of this administrative region was moved to St. George, helping empower the island.

From the late-1800s to mid-1900s Grenada progressed on many levels, gaining a representative government and expanding their infrastructure with new roads, an airport, and expanding communication links. However, their voters were restricted to those with enough wealth and that meant less than 5% of the population had the right to vote.

Eventually revolts and protests led to greater voting rights and in 1951 all adults were allowed to vote, setting in motion the country's later independence. In 1958 the Windward Islands Administration was dissolved so Grenada fell under the jurisdiction of the Federation of the West Indies. However this organized fell apart in 1962 and Grenada was given full control over their domestic affairs and in 1974 they gained full independence.

At first the transition to independence was smooth, however in 1979 a communist-leaning organization took power in a coup and banned other parties as they aligned with Cuba. This new government showed little stability and in 1983, after the execution of the country's former leaders, the United States invaded the island. This quick attack and takeover resulted in less than 100 deaths and after accomplishing their goals, the United States withdrew from the island. Since this time the country has remained fairly stable from a political and economic perspective as tourism has become one of the island's main sources of income.

In 2004 Grenada was hit with a massive hurricane that destroyed over three quarters of the island's buildings, killing a couple dozen people. This storm also wiped out much of the island's nutmeg crop, one of the most consistent income streams the country had. Grenada is still recovering from this storm.

This page was last updated: March, 2013