Saint Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 CE. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery. There is evidence to suggest that these first inhabitants called the islandIouanalao, which meant 'Land of the Iguanas', due to the island's high number of iguanas.
Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period from 800 to 1000 CE They called the island Hewanarau, and later Hewanorra. This is the origin of the name of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort. The Caribs had a complex society, with hereditary kings and shamans. Their war canoes could hold more than 100 men and were fast enough to catch a sailing ship. They were later feared by the invading Europeans for their ferocity in battle.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from Caribs whose land they were occupying. They also were battling for their right to be quartered there.
Early European Contacts
The French pirate Francois El Clerc (also known as Jambe de Bois, due to his wooden leg) frequented Saint Lucia in the 1550s. It was not until years later, around 1600, that the first European camp was started by the Dutch, at what is now Vieux Fort. In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia. After five weeks, only 19 survived, due to disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island. The French officially claimed the island in 1635 but it was the English who started the next European settlement in 1639, which was wiped out by the Caribs
In 1643 a French expedition under the direction of Jacques du Parquet the Governor of Martinique established a permanent settlement on the island under the Governor De Rousselan who took a Carib wife and remained in post until his death in 1654.
In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1,000 men to defend it from the French, but after two years, only 89 survived, mostly due to disease. In 1666 the French administration returned and resumed control of the island. For years after this, the island was officially traded back and forth between the English and the French in various treaties, as a bargaining chip in negotiations although the French settlements remained and the island was a de facto French Colony well into the eighteenth century.
|1674||French crown colony|
|1723||Neutral territory (agreed by Britain and France)|
|1743||French colony (Sainte Lucie)|
|1748||Neutral territory (de jure agreed by Britain and France)|
|1756||French colony (Sainte Lucie)|
|1763||Restored to France|
|1783||Restored to France|
|1802||Restored to France|
|1814||British possession confirmed|
The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered on Martinique, found St Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed. The French assumed ownership again of Saint Lucia by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and introduced the sugar cane industry in 1765. Colonists who came over were mostly indentured white servants serving a small percentage of wealthy merchants or nobles.
The Battle of the Saints, in which Admiral Rodney defeated the French Admiral De Grasse, took place between the French and British navies during the American War of Independence on 12 April 1782. The British victory ensured their naval dominance of the Caribbean.
Near the end of the century, the French Revolution occurred. A revolutionary tribunal was sent to Saint Lucia, headed by captain La Crosse. Prior to this, the slaves had heard about the revolution and walked off their jobs in 1790-1 to work for themselves. Bringing the ideas of the revolution to Saint Lucia, La Crosse set up a guillotine used to execute Royalists. In 1794, the French governor of the island declared that all slaves were free, as also happened on Saint-Domingue.
A short time later, the British invaded in response to the concerns of the wealthy planters, who wanted to keep sugar production going. After years of fighting, the British restored slavery on the island. In 1796 Castries was burned as part of the conflict between the British, the slaves, and French republicans.
Britain eventually triumphed in 1803, the same year the French withdrew their forces from Saint-Domingue after losing two-thirds of the 20,000 soldiers they had sent there against the slave revolt. The new leaders of Haiti declared its independence in 1804, the first black republic in the Caribbean, and the second republic in the Western Hemisphere.
The British abolished the African slave trade in 1807; they acquired Saint Lucia permanently in 1814. It was not until 1834 that they abolished the institution of slavery. Even after abolition, all former slaves had to serve a four-year "apprenticeship," during which they had to work for free for their former masters for at least three-quarters of the work week. They achieved full freedom in 1838.
Also in 1838, Saint Lucia was incorporated into the British Windward Islands administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when the capital was moved to Grenada.
20th century to 21st century
Increasing self-government has marked St Lucia's 20th century history. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of representative government, with a minority of elected members in the previously all-nominated legislative council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority of the council. Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six windward and leeward islands—Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla, and St. Lucia—developed a novel form of cooperation called associated statehood.
As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St. Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom. This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia achieved full independence. St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean community and common market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).