History of St. Lucia

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See also St lucia historic places and plantation hotels.

THe Arawak Indians settled in St Lucia around 200 A.D., by 800 the Islands was predominantly in the hands of the Caribs. The early Amerindian settlers called the island "Iouanalao" and "Hewanorra," or "Island of the Iguanas."

Columbus has been attributed to having discovered St. Lucia in 1502, but it is now believed that he may have sailed close by and not stoped. Juan de la Cosa, who was once Columbus' navigator may have discovered the island in 1499, or 1504.

The Europeans, however, did not settle on the island until the 1550s with the arrival of Francois le Clerc, a.k.a. Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg), a notorious buccaneer. le Clerc set up a base on Pigeon Island, and made a living plundering treasure-laden Spanish galleons on route to South America.

The Dutch arrived in early 1600, and built a fort at Vieux Fort. Shortly after, the British arrived by accident, having been blown off course on there way to Guyana on the Olive Branch. Sixty-seven sailors came ashore. Only nineteen survived the first month and they took off in a canoe to escape the Caribs, who, it is suggested, may have wanted to eat them.

The French officially claimed the island in 1635 but it was the English that started the next European settlement in 1639 led by Sir Thomas Warner. In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1000 men to defend it from the French, but after two years there were only 89 left, mostly due to disease. The French came in 1651, this time from Martinique, commanded by De Rousselan, who held the island until his death in 1654.

The great Anglo-French rivalry for the island continued for over 150 years. The fantastic natural harbours of St Lucia like Rodney Bay and Narigot Bay provided sanctuary for sailing vessels and their are stories of vessels on both sides hiding in deep coves, strapping coconut palms to the top of masts, so opposing forces sailing by would not suspect they were there. Great fortresses where built in strategic points like Choc Bay, Morne Fortune, Vieux Fort and Pigeon Point. For years the island was official traded back and forth between the English and the French in various treaties. The island changed hands a total of 14 times before it was finally ceded to the English in 1814.

Despite the wars, St. Lucia became an important sugar-producing island. By 1780 there were nearly 50 sugar estates in operation. One of these, Paix Bouche, is reputed to be the birthplace of Napolon's first empress, Josphine, born on June 23, 1763. The ruins of the estate case still be seen today.

The country remained under the British crown from 1814 until it became independent within the British Commonwealth in 1979.

Despite the length of British rule, the island's French culture legacy is still strong, St. Lucian speaks a patois, a Creole version of French. Many of the names of the island's cities and villages are French. And unlike most former British colonies, the population is still primarily Roman Catholic.

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Quick Facts

Location Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, North of Trinidad and Tobago. Map references: Central America and the Caribbean

Total: 239.38 sq Miles Land: 235.52 sq Miles Water: 3.86 sq Miles

98.18 Miles

Tropical; Moderated by northeast trade winds: rainy season (May to August) Dry season from January to April.

Volcanic and mountainous with some broad , fertile valleys

Elevation extremes
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m Highest point: Mount Grimie 950 m

Natural resources
Forest, sandy beaches, minerals, minerals springs, geothermal potential arable land 8% of land use.

Land use:
Arable land : 8% Permanent crops: 21% Permanent pastures: 5% Forests and woodland : 13% Other: 53% (1993 est.) Irrigated land: 3.86 sq km

Natural hazards
Infrequent hurricanes; volcanic activity Environment - current issues deforestation Soil erosion, partcularly in the northern region, international agreements party to Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species

Environmental Modification
Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling , International agreements signed, but not ratified Climate Change- Kyoto Protocol.

Noun: Stlucian(s)

Ethnic groups
black 80%, white 4%, other 16%

Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, unknown 3%, other 9% (1980)


Total population: 97.4% Male: 98% Female: 96.8% (1995 est.)

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