Activities   Beaches   Calendar   Diving   Ecology   Exploring   Geography   Island Info History   Home   MDDM   Parrots   People   Restaurants & Nightlife   St Lucia   St Lucia Hotels
Tourist info   Transportation   Travel Tips   Video   Weddings   Whales & Dolphins   Wildlife


St. Lucia's exquisite beauty and serenity belie a history marred by constant war and bloodshed. Even before the advent of the European conquest of the New World, St. Lucia had already been victimized by the ongoing struggle between bellicose Amerindian tribes for control of the island. The original settlers of the island migrated from the northeastern shores of the South American continent between 1000 and 500 B.C. These people were simple farmers and fishermen. Today, over 12 archaeological sites on the island bear witness to this ancient civilization. Remains of their culture consist primarily of domestic and ceremonial artefacts, ceramic objects and enigmatic cave drawings.

By the ninth century A.D., the Carib Indians had begun to advance through the southern Caribbean islands. These fierce warriors also migrated from South America, but their rapid rise to supremacy was achieved in a relatively short time. When the first Europeans arrived, it was the Caribs who greeted them. These encounters were rarely amicable.

Just which European discovered St. Lucia is still in question. Christopher Columbus has traditionally been given credit for the discovery, supposedly made during his fourth voyage in 1502, but recently uncovered evidence suggests otherwise. The discovery of the island of St. Lucia by the Europeans is steeped in ambiguity. Some historians believe Columbus landed there on December 13, 1502, but other records show Columbus could not have been anywhere near the island on that date. Many historians now believe St. Lucia was actually discovered by Juan de la Cosa, Columbus' navigator, in 1499. At any rate, St. Lucians still celebrate Discovery Day as December 13, 1502.
Another version attributes the discovery to the French. According to local tradition, a group of shipwrecked French sailors landed here on December 13, 1502, the feast day of St. Lucia.

 The fact that throws everyone off is that the island of St. Lucia appears on a Vatican globe dated 1502.Jambe de Bois ("Wooden Leg"), a French pirate, used the island as a base for his attacks on Spanish ships in the early 1550s. Later, the Dutch established a fortress at Vieux Fort. However, the first real attempt at colonizing the island occurred in 1605, with the arrival of 67 English settlers aboard the ship Olive Branch. The ship had in fact been on its way to Guiana when it was blown off course and landed in Vieux Fort. At first, the Caribs welcomed the new settlers and sold them several huts.

Tensions soon rose between them, however. In less than five weeks there were only 19 settlers left alive; the survivors barely managed to escape in a canoe. They landed in Venezuela, and years later, one of them, John Nicholls wrote the story of their misadventure.

A subsequent attempt at colonization was made in 1639 by Sir Thomas Warner, who on January 28th 1623 had landed on St Kitts with his wife, son and a party of thirteen. Warner started a settlement on Nevis in 1628. Belain d’Esnambuc attacked the English in 1629 and regular skirmishes between the two occurred over the course of the next seven years. Sir Thomas Warner died in 1648 Some 400 settlers arrived, but in less than 18 months the colony was exterminated by the Caribs.)

With this second failure, the British decided to give up trying to settle St. Lucia. But no sooner did they do so than the French moved in. At her head of the expedition was a man named  Rousselan, a French officer married to a Carib woman. He made peace with the Caribs and established the first permanent settlement on the island. After  Rousselan's death in 1654, the Caribs resumed their attacks on the colony. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent to them that the Europeans had come to stay.

Jealous of the French success on St. Lucia, the British again laid claim to the island in 1659, initiating almost two centuries of continuous warfare. The island changed hands a total of 14 times before it was finally ceded to the English in 1814.Despite the wars and flag changes, St. Lucia became an important sugar-producing island. The first plantation was started by two Frenchmen in 1765.
Fifteen years later, there were nearly 50 estates in operation. One of these, Paix Bouche, is reputed to be the birthplace of Napoléon's first empress, Joséphine, born on June 23, 1763.
The ruins of the estate case still be seen today.

 It should be noted that most historians believe the future empress was born in La Pagerie on the island of Martinique.

African slaves were imported to supply the necessary manpower required by the huge sugar plantations. When the slaves were finally emancipated in 1838, they accounted for almost 90% of the population.
Once it was firmly in British hands following the Napoleonic Wars, St. Lucia became part of the Windward Islands, with the seat of government on Barbados.

Though English was established as the official language, it was impossible to eradicate the influence of French culture on the island. Even today, almost every St. Lucian speaks a patois, a Creole version of French. Many of the names of the island's cities and villages are French. And unlike that of most former British colonies, the population is still primarily Roman Catholic.
In 1979, the last colonial link between Great Britain and St. Lucia was severed when the island achieved full independence. In that same year it became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

History of African Slavery in the Caribbean

It was Columbus and his adventures throughout the Caribbean between 1492 and 1498 that first brought Europeans to the Islands, and very soon after they settled the colonies, the need was apparent for labour to expand trade. The original inhabitants, the Tainos who from all accounts were a peaceful tribe, and the Caribs, who were a warlike tribe were found to be unsuitable for slave labour, so were systematically wiped out by the invaders. Guiana and Trinidad are now the only two islands that can boast descendants of these original natives. Slavery was, of course already well established on the west coast of Africa was the logical choice for the new plantation owners and for over 300 years from Columbus's second voyage in 1496, Africans were transported to provide free labour to satisfy the European demand for sugar, coffee, cotton and cacao of the Caribbean. So great was the demand for labour, that between 1776 and 1848, over 4000,000 slaves out of a total population of 5000,000 were working throughout the Caribbean. The high ratio of slaves to owners and their overseers, the harsh and brutal treatment, as well as absentee landowners made rebellion inevitable, with slaves performing self mutilation, suicide and killing their children to escape bondage, as well as escaping and living wild in the forests, (maroonage) forming their own communities. Slave revolts were endemic throughout with Jamaica holding the record of serious uprisings, and on Guiana, a slave actually became governor after a revolt in 1763.
Emancipation came in 1838, with £20,000,000 being paid to the planters in compensation, and workers were still virtual slaves as the plantation owners had the monopoly on jobs. To add to the problems, indentured labourers from India, another of Britain's colonies came to the Caribbean in 1844, and kept arriving for the next 73 years. By the time this immigration period had ended over 400,000 Indians had set up home mainly in Trinidad, Guiana and Jamaica.


Activities   Beaches   Calendar   Diving   Ecology   Exploring   Geography   Island Info History   Home   MDDM   Parrots   People   Restaurants & Nightlife   St Lucia   St Lucia Hotels
Tourist info   Transportation   Travel Tips   Video   Weddings   Whales & Dolphins   Wildlife
Visit one of our other Caribbean Island destinations