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History of St. Lucia

St. Lucia was likely inhabited by first the Arawak people then by the Caribs prior to European arrival with the Caribs essentially taking over the entire island. The Europeans then arrived around the turn of the sixteenth century, although they didn't establish a permanent settlement at the time.

Throughout the 1500s and early 1600s the island of St. Lucia was primarily left alone by the European powers. The British, French, and Dutch all made weak attempts to create settlements, but the local Carib people regularly attacked these settlements and none lasted.

The French made some headway in this mission to settle the island in the mid-1640s when the French leader married a local Carib. Shortly after, in 1664, the British attempted to take the island from the French and this began the wars between the two groups over control of the island, although the French held claim to it during these early years.

By the 1760s the sugarcane industry was expanding rapidly and both the British and French viewed the island as ideal for the growth of this crop. The industry grew under French direction as people were brought in, both from France as indentured servants as well as African slaves. In the late 1700s, with the French Revolution numerous slaves left their masters without much difficulty and in 1794 all slaves were declared free on the island. The number of slaves on St. Lucia though was smaller than many Caribbean islands since most of the workers were indentured servants and the sugarcane industry has not been present on the island for long.

Slavery was re-introduced shortly after the British took over the island, taking the capital of Castries in 1796 and gaining full and permanent control over the island in 1814. Because the United Kingdom outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1834, the island didn't bring in many slaves after the Brits took control. It was also near this time that the island was made a part of the British Windward Islands Administration, headquartered in Barbados.

It wasn't until 1924 that St. Lucia received a representative government, but who was allowed to vote was severely limited until 1951. In 1967 the island received greater rights as they were given full control over their domestic affairs and in 1979 they gained complete independence from the United Kingdom.

Since 1979 St. Lucia has been quite stable politically and economically. Since that time the country has been slowly diversifying their economy as tourism has become a major source of income.

This page was last updated: July, 2012