St. Lucia History

St. Lucia is the second largest island of the British Lesser Antilles. Located roughly in the center of the Windward island chain, it is nestled between Martinique to the north and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the south. Castries, the capital city, is situated on the northwest coast and known for its magnificent harbor. St. Lucia, said to be named for the patron saint of the day on which it was discovered, has an uncommon heritage of mixed cultural and historical influences, including Amerindian, European, and African.

St. Lucia was inhabited by the Carib (Amerindian) Indians when sighted by the Spanish in the first decade of the sixteenth century. Many believe that Columbus viewed the island in 1502. St. Lucia remained uncolonized until the mid-seventeenth century. Earlier attempts by the British in 1605 and 1638 had met with disaster; would-be colonizers were either forced from the shores of the island or killed by its inhabitants. Permanent French settlement occurred in 1660, after an armistice had been agreed with the indigenous population.

But there was no lengthy period of peace. Military conflicts among the Dutch, British, Spanish, and French, both on the European continent and in the colonies, resulted in St. Lucia’s falling alternately under the control of France and Britain fourteen different times in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this period of constantly changing European alliances, both the British and the French sought control of St. Lucia for strategic purposes. The island’s natural deep-water harbors afforded ready protection for military vessels and as an ideal location from which to monitor enemy movements in the Caribbean.

The battle for control of St. Lucia continued intermittently throughout the rise and fall of the French Republic, following the French Revolution, because possession of the sugar-producing islands of the Caribbean was considered essential for raising revenue to support the ongoing war in Europe. From 1793 until Napoleon’s fall in 1815, St. Lucia was captured alternately by France and Britain no fewer than seven times. Although the French permanently ceded St. Lucia to Britain in 1815, it was many years before the population, whose sympathies rested with the French, accepted British rule.

The twentieth century saw St. Lucia’s gradual transition to self-governance. Representative government was introduced in 1924 when a constitution was established; however, there was only incremental progress toward the development of a locally-controlled political system for the next thirty-four years.

Following the dissolution of the short-lived West Indies Federation, St. Lucia agreed to become an associated state of Britain, which entailed a mutually sanctioned relationship that could be dissolved at any time by either party. This arrangement lasted until 1975, when members of the West Indies Associated States chose to pursue independence at their discretion and convenience. Following three years of planning and deliberation, St. Lucia gained independence on February.22nd, 1979.

St. Lucia history wouldn’t be complete without telling you how great scuba diving in St. Lucia really is.