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History of St. Vincent & the Grenadines

St. Vincent was inhabited by numerous people prior to European arrival, but it was the Carib people who lived on the islands when the Europeans arrived in the early 1500s. The Europeans though had little success in settling on the islands since the Caribs fought any attempts at settlement.

Throughout the 1500s, 1600s, and even into the early 1700s the Caribs held St. Vincent & the Grenadines. During this time they rejected the Europeans, but welcomed many former African slaves who had escaped from neighboring islands. These former slaves and the Caribs regularly intermarried, later calling themselves Garifuna.

The success of the Carib and Garifuna ended in 1719 when the French succeeded in taking the islands. They used the islands as a base to product numerous crops, most notably coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugarcane. In order to profit from these industries, the French brought in African slaves to work the plantations.

France maintained control of the islands until 1763 when the British took power and began more aggressively taking land in order to produce larger quantities of crops. This created great resentment and aggression between the British and Garifuna, battles that later included the French as they attempted to re-gain control of the islands. The violence with the French ended in 1783 when the United Kingdom officially gained control of the islands. However, this only escalated violence with the Garifunas as battled continued until 1797, at which time many of the Garifunas were deported.

With the end of slavery in the British Empire in 1834 the economy in St. Vincent & the Grenadines suffered. This drop in production due to the freeing of slaves led to the employment of former slaves and indentured servants from multiple countries in these same industries. However, the supply of sugar was increasing worldwide and with the Great Depression in the United States in the 1930s the demand for the good also dropped. Due to the reliance on this, and other crops including more recent introductions like the banana and coconut, the economy in St. Vincent & the Grenadines suffered from the early-1800s until the mid- to late-1900s.

The people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines finally gained greater rights in 1951 when all adults were given the right to vote. This led to a greater voice in politics, something that was nearly unheard of on the islands prior to this. In 1969 the islands were given complete freedom to run their own domestic affairs and in 1979 they were given complete independence.

Since independence St. Vincent & the Grenadines has struggled at times. Due to a number of hurricanes and volcanic eruptions the banana and coconut industries have taken some steps backwards. Tourism has also become a major source of income in the country.

This page was last updated: March, 2013