History of St Vincent
|The country's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, later driven out by Caribs; the latter put up a strong resistance to European colonisation. Columbus sighted the principal island on 22 January 1498, and named it after the saint whose feast falls on that day. No immediate European immigration followed his discovery. In 1627 Charles I of England granted the island to Lord Carlisle, but no settlers arrived. Charles II granted it to Lord Willoughby in 1672; possession was disputed by the British, French and Spanish. All these claims were resisted by the Caribs. The Caribs did not, however, oppose the settlement of a shipload of enslaved Africans who escaped after a shipwreck in 1673, and in due course seem to have merged with the Carib community through intermarriage. In 1773, under an Anglo/Carib treaty, the Caribs were allowed to continue to live independently in the north of the island.
France took the island in 1779, but restored it to Britain in 1783, under the Treaty of Versailles. There was a Carib revolution in 1795-96, with some French help from Martinique; when this had been crushed, the rebels were deported to the island of Roatan in the Bay of Honduras. In 1812 La Soufriere erupted and devastated much of the island, on which a plantation economy, based on slave labour, produced sugar, cotton, coffee and cocoa. After the emancipation of slaves by Britain in 1833, indentured labour from the East Indies and from Portugal was brought in to remedy the labour shortage.
In the second half of the 19th century sugar slumped and a depression lasted until the end of the century. A series of natural disasters followed: a hurricane and also a further eruption of La Soufriere in 1902 which devastated the northern half of the island and killed 2,000 people.
St Vincent and the Grenadines being a small agricultural country, the move to full independence started relatively late, after the break up of the West Indies Federation, of which it had been a member, in 1962. Universal adult suffrage to vote for the Executive Council had been gained in 1951, and internal self government was achieved in 1969, when the country became a self governing state in association with Britain. Full independence came in October 1979.