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Grenada - History

Before the arrival of Europeans, Carib Indians had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus landed on Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the new world. He named the island "Concepcion." The origin of the name "Grenada" is obscure, but it is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada. By the beginning of the 18th century, the name "Grenada," or "la Grenade" in French, was in common use.

The earliest written records dating back to 1656 suggest that Caribs named Carriacou ‘Kayryouacou’, meaning ‘land surrounded by reef’. Archaeological discoveries of pottery tools from approximately 1000 AD reveal that Arawaks and Caribs from South America were the first settlers on the island.

The French were the first European settlers in Carriacou around the 1740s. In 1763, it was surrendered along with Grenada to the British. Although the majority of Carriacou’s inhabitants are of African descent, European influences can still be found in the way Carriacouians live and also in the names of our towns, cities and people.

Partly because of the Caribs, Grenada remained un-colonized for more than 100 years after its discovery; early English efforts to settle the island were unsuccessful. In 1650, a French company founded by Cardinal Richelieu purchased Grenada from the English and established a small settlement. After several skirmishes with the Caribs, the French brought in reinforcements from Martinique and defeated the Caribs.

Grenada remained under French control until its capture by the British in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. The Treaty of Paris formally ceded Grenada to Great Britain in 1763. Although the French regained control in 1779, the Treaty of Versailles restored the island to Britain in 1783. Britain overcame a pro-French revolt in 1795, and Grenada remained British for the remainder of the colonial period.

During the 18th century, Grenada's economy underwent an important transition. Like much of the rest of the West Indies it was originally settled to cultivate sugar, which was grown on estates using slave labor. But natural disasters paved the way for the introduction of other crops. In 1782, Sir Joseph Banks, the botanical adviser to King George III, introduced nutmeg to Grenada. The island's soil was ideal for growing the spice, and because Grenada was a closer source of spices for Europe than the Dutch East Indies the island assumed a new importance to European traders. The collapse of the sugar estates and the introduction of nutmeg and cocoa encouraged the development of smaller landholdings, and the island developed a land-owning yeoman farmer class. Slavery was outlawed in 1834.

In 1833, Grenada became part of the British Windward Islands Administration. The governor of the Windward Islands administered the island for the rest of the colonial period. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration was dissolved, and Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies. After that federation collapsed in 1962, the British Government tried to form a small federation out of its remaining dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean.

Following the failure of this second effort, the British and the islands developed the concept of associated statehood. Under the Associated Statehood Act of 1967, Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs in March 1967. On February 7th 1974, Grenada became the first Windward and Leeward Island to become a sovereign state.

After obtaining independence, Grenada adopted a modified Westminster parliamentary system based on the British model, with a governor general appointed by and representing the British monarch (head of state) and a prime minister who is both leader of the majority party and the head of government. Sir Eric Gairy was Grenada's first Prime Minister.

On March 13, 1979, the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation Movement (New Jewel Movement--NJM), ousted Gairy in a coup and established a People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) headed by Maurice Bishop, who became Prime Minister. His Marxist-Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other communist bloc countries.

In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the arrest and execution of Bishop and several members of his cabinet and the killing of dozens of his supporters by elements of the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA).





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