Trinidad and Tobago History

Trinidad and Tobago History

Discovery and settlement by Europeans

When Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Trinidad during his third voyage in July 1498, it was presumably populated by the Arawak and the Caribbean people. The island got its name from three striking mountain peaks in the southeast of the country (Trinidad = Trinity). Around 30 years later, the first Spanish settlers settled on the island and started cultivating the country. The indigenous population was severely decimated by diseases and forced labor brought in by the Europeans.

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From 1552 Trinidad was administered by a Spanish governor and remained in the Spanish crown for around 250 years. The island of Tobago, just 30 km northeast, was a controversial area between the colonial powers of France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. After the Spanish-English War, Trinidad finally came into British possession in 1802 (Peace of Amiens) and Tobago in 1814 (Peace of Paris). At this point, the islands were already being intensively farmed (cotton, cocoa, sugar cane). African slaves have been brought to the islands for work on the large-scale plantations since the mid-17th century. After Britain officially banned slavery in its colonies in 1833, cheap labor was brought in from Asia, predominantly from India, especially to Trinidad (an estimated 150,000 by 1915).

From 1889, Trinidad and Tobago were administered as a common British colony. The colonial administration was based in the city of Port of Spain on the west coast of Trinidad.

Way to independence

In 1867 oil was found on Trinidad, which was mined commercially from 1910. This made the island of great economic importance for Great Britain. In 1956, the two islands received limited internal self-government. The country’s first head of government was Eric Eustace Williams, leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM). From 1958 to 1962 the islands belonged to the “West Indian Federation” created by Great Britain, after their dissolution the islands were released on August 31, 1962 as a parliamentary monarchy within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

According to AbbreviationFinder, the British monarch Elizabeth II, who was represented by a governor general, remained the head of state. Eric Williams of the PNM remained head of the government. Since independence, political life has been determined by the two parties “People’s National Movement” (PNM), predominantly elected by the black population, and “United National Congress” (UNC), essentially a party of the Indian ethnic group.

Development since the 1970s

In 1973, Trinidad and Tobago, along with Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados, were among the founding members of CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market).

In August 1976 the state changed and Trinidad and Tobago became a presidential republic under the new constitution (still within the British Commonwealth). The head of state was now the president (Ellis Emmanuel Clarke until 1987). By then, Trinidad had become America’s third largest oil exporter.

The PNM served as the country’s prime minister until 1986, when the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) won a large majority of the House elections and elected Arthur Robinson as the new head of state. In 1991 the PNM recaptured the majority of the seats and Patrick Manning became premier. In early elections in November 1995, both the PNM and the United National Congress (UNC), a split party of the NAR, won the same number of seats in parliament. UNC politician Basdeo Panday became the head of a coalition government.

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In 1997, former Prime Minister Arthur Robinson became the new President of Trindidad and Tobago. His government goals included expanding tourism as an important source of foreign exchange for the island nation and promoting natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Paria.

The December 2001 parliamentary elections each gave the UNC and PNM 18 seats. After the two equally strong parties were unable to agree on a new budget, Prime Minister Patrick Manning dissolved the parliament in August 2002. In the subsequent new elections, the PNM won the narrow majority in parliament with 20 seats, which it expanded to 26 seats in 2007.

The year 2010 brought a change of power in Trinidad and Tobago. Prime Minister Patrick Manning has been accused of wasting state money. A vote of no confidence had already been applied for when Manning dissolved parliament and scheduled new elections for May 2010. UNC’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar was sworn in as the new prime minister in the same month. The main goals of the new government include reducing rampant crime and corruption, and diversifying and reviving the country’s energy-focused economy.

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