Dominica History

Dominica History


Even before Christopher Columbus discovered the island on his second “West India” trip, members of the Aruak Indians (Arawak) lived here, who were then displaced by the warlike tribe of the Caribbean. The island got its name from the day of the week Columbus sighted it (a Sunday).

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Colonial period

Even after its discovery by the Spaniards at the end of the 15th century, the island was not populated for a long time, as the local Caribbean people put up violent resistance to attempts to settle the island. From around 1632, French, British, Dutch and Danes tried to establish their first branches on the island. Initially, France and Great Britain agreed to treat the island as neutral (1648, 1660) due to the hostile attitude of the belligerent Caribbean, but after the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) the island was given to Great Britain. As a result, France tried several times unsuccessfully to conquer the island (1783, 1795, 1805), but was unable to assert itself against the British in the long run. Britain’s claim to the island was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Paris in 1815.

While the native Caribbean was driven out of the island (today descendants of this people still live on Dominica in a reserve in the north of the island), black slaves were brought from Africa to work on the plantations by Great Britain on the island.

In 1854 Dominica was declared a British Crown Colony. From the second half of the 19th century, the U.S.’s economic influence on the island increased. In 1883 Dominica was annexed to the Federation of the Leeward Islands, which included the Lesser Antilles from the Virgin Islands to the island of Marie Galante. In 1940 Great Britain joined Dominica to the Windward Islands, which still include the islands from Dominica to Grenada.

In 1958 the island became a member of the West Indian Federation, which lasted until 1962. In the second half of the 1960s Dominica received the status of a state associated with Great Britain with internal autonomy. According to AbbreviationFinder, Britain’s foreign and defense interests continued to be represented. Economically, the island was largely dependent on the United States. In 1974 the country became a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). An association agreement was signed with the European Community two years later.

Independent state

In November 1978 Dominica was granted full sovereignty as a parliamentary republic under the British Commonwealth. In the first elections, the Labor Party of Dominica prevailed against the conservative Dominica Freedom Party, Patrick R. John became the country’s prime minister for a short time. In the same year, hurricane “David” devastated much of the island and caused severe damage to the economy. Around 75% of the population became homeless. After a severe domestic political crisis due to the poor economic situation and allegations of corruption against the prime minister, J. Oliver Seraphine became John’s successor in June 1979, and Jenner Armor became the new president.

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A renewed change of government in July 1980 brought lawyer Mary Eugenia Charles, the chairwoman of the Dominica Freedom Party, to the head of the state (until 1995). Charles was the first female prime minister in the entire Caribbean. After being twice confirmed in office (nicknamed “Iron Lady of the Caribbean”), in June 1995 Edison James of the left-wing Dominica United Workers’ Party (UWP) took over the office of Prime Minister. Allegations of corruption were made against him within a short time. After the January 2000 elections, a coalition ruled between the Dominica Labor Party (DLP) and the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), Roosevelt Douglas became the new prime minister of the DLP, and Pierre Charles took office after his death in October. After he also died in January 2004, Former Minister of Education Roosevelt Skerrit was sworn in as the new prime minister. His government’s primary goals are to stimulate the stagnating economy and reduce poverty.

Dominica President