Martinique is an island in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 386,486 inhabitants (as of Jan. 2013). Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, northwest ofBarbados, and south of Dominica.
As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is one of the twenty-seven regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the French Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. The official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais).
Martinique owes its name to Christopher Columbus, who sighted the island in 1493 and finally landed on 15 June 1502.
Martinique was occupied several times by the British, including once during the Seven Years' War and twice during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain controlled the island almost continuously from 1794-1815, when it was traded back to France at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.Martinique has remained a French possession since then.
As sugar prices declined in the early 1800s the planter class lost political influence, and in 1848 Victor Schoelcher persuaded the French government to end slavery in the French West Indies.
On May 8, 1902, Mont Pelée erupted and completely destroyed St. Pierre, killing 30,000 people. The only survivor in the town, Auguste Cyparis, was saved by the thick walls of his prison cell. Shortly thereafter the capital shifted to Fort-de-France, where it remains today.
In 1946, the French National Assembly voted unanimously to transform the colony into an Overseas Department of France. In 1974 it became simply a Department.
In 2003 Martinique had a total GDP of 5.496 billion euros. In 2000 its per capita GDP was 14,283 euros. In that year services constituted 82.2% of GDP, while industry represented 8.6% and agriculture 3.5%. In 2002 the island exported 26 million euros-worth of goods, primarily fruit, beverages and refined petroleum products. It imported 486 million euros-worth of goods, including vehicles, furniture, medicine and raw petroleum (used in the island's refinery).
Historically Martinique's economy relied on agriculture, but by the beginning of the 21st century this sector had dwindled considerably. Sugar production has declined, with most of the sugarcane now used for the production of rum. Banana exports are increasing, going mostly to France. The bulk of meat, vegetable, and grain requirements must be imported, contributing to a chronic trade deficit that requires large annual transfers of aid from France.
Tourism has become more important than agricultural exports as a source of foreign exchange. In 2000 the island hosted 500,000 tourists, and the tourism industry employed 7% of the total workforce. Roughly 16% of the total businesses on the island (some 6,000 companies) provide tourist-related services.
All goods entering Martinique are charged a variable "sea toll" which may reach 30% of the value of the cargo and provides 40% of the island's total revenue. Additionally the government charges an "annual due" of 1-2.5% and a value added tax of 2.2-8.5%.