Grenada History

Grenada History

Discovery by Europeans

When Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Grenada on his third voyage in 1498 and called it “Concepti¨®n”, members of the Caribbean tribe lived here, who had driven the local Aruak Indians out of the island from the 13th century. From the 1920s onwards, the island appeared on the maps under the name Grenada (after the Spanish city of Granada).

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Struggle for supremacy

In the 17th century, the island became an object of contention between France and Great Britain. Both countries initially tried unsuccessfully to colonize the island against the resistance of the Caribbean, and it was not until 1650 that a French fort was built on the site of today’s capital, St. George’s. As the French settlers spread further across the island and began to set up extensive plantations for the cultivation of sugar cane, cocoa and coffee, there were bitter fighting battles among the Caribbean. The last 40 warriors are said to have plunged into the sea in 1651 at the legendary ledge “Morne des Sauters” (today “Carib’s Leap”) in order to avoid the enemy’s access.

In 1674 Grenada officially became the property of the French crown. Barely a century later, British troops conquered the island and were awarded it in the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.

According to AbbreviationFinder, African slaves were brought into the country to work on the plantations, where spices (nutmeg, saffron, pepper) were increasingly cultivated in addition to sugar cane and cocoa. In the 1860s it was said that there were around 12,000 black Africans who worked for a few large white landowners. Workers’ revolts against the colonial masters were suppressed. When slavery was banned in the British colonies from 1834, the plantation owners brought contract workers from Asia, especially India, to the island.

From the colony to the independent state

In 1833 the island of Grenada and the southern islands of the Grenadines were incorporated into the British colony of the Windward Islands. In 1877 the island became a British crown colony.

From 1885 to 1958, the city of St. George’s on the west coast of Grenada was the administrative seat of the Windward Islands. In 1924, after protests by plantation workers against the large landowners and the British colonial power, the island received its own constitution and, from 1940, political rights to vote gradually. General suffrage was introduced in 1951. From 1958 to 1962 Grenada was a member of the “West Indian Federation”, after which the island was again administered by Great Britain.

In 1967, the island gained political autonomy and the status of a state associated with Britain. The “Grenada United Labor Party” (GULP) under the leadership of the large landowner Eric Gairy was able to assert itself as the dominant political force. In 1974 Grenada became independent as a parliamentary monarchy in the British Commonwealth. The British monarch Elizabeth II as head of state was represented on the island by a governor general. Eric Gairy became the first prime minister and thus head of state.

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Its dictatorial leadership and corruption within the government led to economic stagnation, high unemployment and ongoing social tensions. In 1979 there was a coup d’¨¦tat. Socialist Maurice Bishop became the new political leader of the opposition alliance “New JEWEL Movement” (Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberty). He headed a revolutionary council that replaced the parliament. Bishop entered into a cooperation and military agreement with Cuba and the Soviet Union and implemented socialist reforms in the country. In 1983 he and some of his cabinet members were murdered by members of their own movement. Shortly afterwards, US and Caribbean troops attacked Grenada, to officially restore democratic conditions and prevent the island from coming closer to Cuba. In new elections in December 1984, the bourgeois New National Party (NNP) won the majority, and its leader Herbert Blaize became the country’s new prime minister. After the elections, the last foreign troops were withdrawn from the island.

The island’s economic situation continued to improve – despite foreign financial aid and the re-privatization of companies. Agricultural production and tourism were hit hard by the devastation caused by hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005), and the international financial crisis in 2009 brought another economic downturn.

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