Saint Kitts and Nevis History

Saint Kitts and Nevis History

European discovery

When Christopher Columbus discovered the two islands on his second “West Indies” trip (1493-96), they were populated by members of the warlike tribe of the Caribbean. He named the larger of the two islands in honor of the patron saint of travelers “St. Christopher”, the smaller one was named “Las Nieves” (snow) due to the towering volcanic cone shrouded in fog.

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Struggle for supremacy

British colonization of the islands began in the 17th century, the bitterly opposing Caribbean were driven out and sold in part as slaves. The first British settlements appeared on St. Christopher (henceforth also known as St. Kitts) in 1623, and a little later the French founded the Basseterre branch, the current capital of the island state. On Brimstone Hill, an extinct volcano, the British built a mighty fortress, the remains of which can still be seen today. Las Nieves was also settled a little later, the Spanish name was converted to “Nevis” according to the British language.

Both major powers began to plant sugar cane plantations, for the management of which black slaves from Africa were brought to the islands. As with the other West Indies, the struggle for ownership of St. Christopher and Nevis broke out between France and Great Britain, which the British won in the 18th century. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris recorded the status of the two islands as British colonies.

British colony

After Great Britain abolished slavery in its colonies in 1834/38, contract workers from Asia (predominantly from India and China) had to be brought to the island due to the labor shortage. This reduced the previously significant profit margins in the sugar cane trade.

From 1816 to 1871, St. Christopher and Nevis were administered jointly with the island of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. In 1871, the two islands were incorporated into the British Crown Colony of the Leeward Islands, which comprised the northern part of the Leeward Islands.

From 1958 to 1962, St. Christopher and Nevis belonged to the West Indies Federation founded by Great Britain, and in 1967, together with the island of Anguilla, they became associated countries of Great Britain in the course of decolonization and thus received internal autonomy. According to AbbreviationFinder, Anguilla defended itself against the leadership claim of the island of St. Christopher and subordinated itself directly to the British crown in the early 1970s.

Independent state

St. Christopher and Nevis were granted independence from Britain on September 19, 1983 as a parliamentary monarchy within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British monarch Elizabeth II thus remained the head of state of the island state and was represented there by a governor general. Nevis received its own National Assembly by constitution. In the same year the state was admitted to the UN as the 154th member. In May 1987 the state name was officially changed to “St. Kitts and Nevis”.

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The People’s Action Movement (PAM) had established itself as the dominant political party. In the July 1995 general election, the left-wing Labor Party (SKNLP) won the majority and its leader Denzil Douglas became the new prime minister and foreign minister of the island state.

The “Concerned Citizen Movement” (CCM) party was founded on Nevis in 1988. It won three of the five seats in the 1992 National Assembly elections. There were increasing voices demanding the independence of the small island from St. Kitts. A corresponding referendum failed in 1998.

Like other small states, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis tried to attract foreign investors into the country through cheap taxes. Around 17,500 international “letterbox companies” made the island state appear on the so-called “black list” of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) at the end of 2000 as one of the countries that were accused of lacking cooperation in the fight against money laundering or unfair tax policies. In 2010, the Saint Kitts and Nevis government signed the last of the twelve agreements required to be removed from the OECD gray list. Prime Minister Denzil Douglas continues to focus on stimulating the economy and diversifying agriculture.

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