Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent sovereign state
of the Caribbean, part of the Commonwealth of Nations.
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Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th
century. Enslaved Africans -- whether shipwrecked or escaped from Barbados, St.
Lucia and Grenada and seeking refuge in mainland St. Vincent, or Hairoun as it
was originally named by the Caribs -- intermarried with the Caribs and became
known as Garifuna or Black Caribs. Beginning in 1719, French settlers cultivated
coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by enslaved Africans.
In 1763, St. Vincent was ceded to Britain. Restored to French rule in 1779, St.
Vincent was regained by the British under the Treaty of Paris (1783) in which
Great Britain officially recognized the end of the American Revolution. Ancillary
treaties were also signed with France and Spain, known as the Treaties of Versailles
of 1783, part of which put St. Vincent back under British control. Conflict between
the British and the Black Caribs, led by defiant Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer,
continued until 1796, when General Sir Ralph Abercromby crushed a revolt fomented
by the French radical Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 Black Caribs were eventually
deported to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labour shortages
on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the
1840s and east Indians in the 1860s. 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 century.
From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through
various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative
assembly was authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government 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 colonies themselves, desirous of freedom from British
rule, made a notable attempt at unification called West Indies Federation, which
collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status on October
27th, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a
referendum in 1979, under Milton Cato St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the
last of the Windward Islands to gain independence on the 10th anniversary of its
associate statehood status, October 27th, 1979.
disasters have featured in the country's history. In 1902, La 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. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes compromised 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.