French colonyBeginning in 1719, French settlers from Martinique gained control of the island and began cultivating coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations. These plantations were worked by enslaved Africans. In 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, France ceded control of Saint Vincent to Britain, which began a program of colonial plantation development that was resisted by the Caribs. France captured the island in 1779, but the British regained Saint Vincent under the Treaty of Versailles (1783). This treaty was an ancillary treaty to the Treaty of Paris (1783), through which Great Britain officially recognised the end of the American Revolutionary War.
British colonyBetween 1783 and 1796, there was again conflict between the British and the Black Caribs, who were led by defiant Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer. In 1797 British General Sir Ralph Abercromby put an end to the open conflict by crushing an uprising which had been supported by the French radical, Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 Black Caribs were eventually deported to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Slavery was abolished in Saint Vincent (as well as in the other British colonies) in 1834, and an apprenticeship period followed which ended in 1838. After its end, labour shortages on the plantations resulted, and this was initially addressed by the immigration of indentured servants. In the late 1840s many Portuguese immigrants arrived from Madeira and between 1861 and 1888 shiploads of East Indian labourers arrived. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the start of the 20th century.
20th centuryFrom 1763 until its independence in 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorised in 1776, Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a legislative council was created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage was granted in 1951.
During the period of its control of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate the island with other Windward Islands. This would have simplified Britain's control over the region through a unified administration. In the 1960s, several regional islands under British control, including Saint Vincent, also made an independent attempt to unify. The unification was to be called the West Indies Federation and was driven by a desire to gain freedom from British rule. The attempt collapsed in 1962.
Saint Vincent was granted "associate statehood" status by Britain on 27 October 1969. This gave Saint Vincent complete control over its internal affairs but was short of full independence. On 27 October 1979, following a referendum under Milton Cato, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. Independence came on the 10th anniversary of Saint Vincent's associate statehood status.
Natural disasters have featured in the country's history. In 1902, La Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufrière erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands were evacuated, and again there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes damaged many banana and coconut plantations. Hurricane seasons were also very active in 1998 and 1999, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
On 25 November 2009, voters were asked to approve a new constitution in a referendum. The new constitution proposed to make the country a republic and replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a non-executive President. A two-thirds majority was required, but it was defeated by 29,019 votes (55.64 per cent) to 22,493 (43.13 per cent).