History of Guadeloupe

History of Guadeloupe

Discovery and settlement

The earliest settlers on Guadeloupe arrived around 300 BC and developed agriculture on the island. They were removed by the more warlike Caribs. It was the Caribs who called the island "Karukera," which is roughly translated as "island with beautiful waters." They were also the tribe to meet all of the later settlers to the island.

Columbus' second journey brought him to this island on November 14, 1493. He named it for an image in a Spanish monastery he had visited: Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, an image of the Virgin Mary venerated at Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Extremadura.

No settlements were established on the island for many years but it was used as a trading post. However, in 1635 the French Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique sent explorers to take control of the island. They succeeded, but nearly wiped out the Caribs in doing so. It was not annexed to the Kingdom of France until 1674.

Changes in Europe

From 1759 through 1763, as a part of the Seven Years' War, the British took control of the island and the main city Pointe-à-Pitre was established during these years. Proof of the island's importance came in 1763 when in the Treaty of Paris the French traded their territory in Canada to Britain in return for control of Guadeloupe.

The French Revolution also caused political turmoil, and control of Guadeloupe changed hands several times including 1789 and 1792. Slavery was abolished during this tumultuous time and within the year Britain had again occupied the island. Guadeloupe experienced the effects of the Reign of Terror from 1794 to 1798.

Meanwhile Louis Delgrès, a mulatto officer, led an uprising in 1802. He and 300 rebels chose to die rather than submit to the French army. Napoleon reinstated slavery when the French retook the island.

The British again held the island for three years beginning in 1810. It was ceded to Sweden in 1813 after the Napoleonic Wars. However, the Treaty of Paris in 1814 left the island to France again, though the British and Swedish did not fully acknowledge the secession. French control of the island was recognized in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815.

Ending slavery

Like many Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe struggled with the end of slavery. In 1848, slavery was abolished completely. In place of the slaves, indentured servants were imported from India. The first indentured servants arrived in 1854.

A worldwide sugar slump began in 1870, hurting Guadeloupe's economy. Sugar was bolstered during the First World War. Guadeloupe was of little international concern between this time. Just after the war, in 1923, it exported its first bananas.

Modern times

Though Guadeloupe has been relatively peaceful, political changes have not always been easy. A compulsory work program was instituted by the Vichy government under Governor Sorin between 1940 and 1943.

In 1946, after another change of political power, Guadeloupe became an overseas Department of France. Other French Caribbean islands were added to this Department and in 1995 Guadeloupe became an observer in the Association of Caribbean States.

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