A brief history of St Vincent and the Grenadines
The 27th October is Independence Day in St Vincent and the Grenadines. To celebrate this important date, we thought we’d take a look at the fascinating history of the islands and the characters who have helped to shape this unique Caribbean nation.
When Europeans first arrived in the Caribbean in the 15th century, St Vincent and the Grenadines was inhabited by the Carib people. They, and other similar native groups in the region, had likely moved to the area from the Orinoco Valley in South America.
Up until the 18th century, the native population aggressively resisted any attempts by Europeans to settle the islands. Some escaped slaves from neighbouring islands like St Lucia and Grenada did find their way to St Vincent where they were given sanctuary and gradually married into the local population. This created one of the first mixed African-Carib ethnic groups, now known as Garifuna.
The French were the first Europeans to occupy St Vincent and the Grenadines. Early settlers began cultivating coffee, tobacco, indigo, corn and sugar. African slaves were brought to the islands to work in the plantations located on the main island.
In the late 18th century, the British and French struggled for control of the islands and St Vincent and the Grenadines changed hands a number of times. In 1783, the islands finally came under British control, however the French continued to disrupt life on St Vincent from nearby Martinique, supporting a number of uprisings and rebellions in the late 1700s.
In 1790, a man named Alexandre Moreau de Jonnès was one of those charged with surreptitiously visiting St Vincent to train the native population in the use of firearms. An agent of revolutionary France, he made two secret visits to the islands and in late 1795 spent several months living in a Carib village near the east coast of St Vincent.
Moreau was interested in the social lives of the native population and the tropical vegetation that surrounded him. He was also fascinated by the beauty of the chief’s daughter, 18-year old Eliama. He later went on to become a distinguished historian, writing extensively about his time on the islands. He wrote "This was truly Eden, with its perpetual spring, it's shady forests, its magnificent views, its flowering groves, [and] its singing birds. Nothing was missing, since a second Eve lived in this pleasant retreat."
Today, little has changed in the landscape of the islands and St Vincent and the Grenadines remains a lush tropical paradise.
Self-rule and independence
The British continued to rule St Vincent and the Grenadines until the mid-20th century. In 1834, slavery was abolished in the islands and in 1877 a Crown Colony government was installed. On 27th October 1969 St Vincent was granted associated statehood status giving it complete control over its internal affairs and finally, in 1970 it became the last on the Windward Islands to gain full independence.
The unique history of these islands has helped to shape the culture, people and landscape of the archipelago. Visit our site, or plan your own trip to the Caribbean, to find out more.