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Grenada and Carriaco – A History of Grenada

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The History of the Grenada and the Grenadines

by Carriacou Hotels on April 6, 2010

The history of Grenada and the Grenadine islands has been a chequered one, and as far as the West is concerned it all began in 1498. In that year they were ‘discovered’ by Columbus, though some islanders might have ridiculously imagined they had been chugging along quite happily for centuries before he arrived. The native Kalinago islanders called it Camahogne.

After its discovery there was precious little peace for Grenada as it was bounced between Western Imperial Powers like a ping-pong ball, the fate of many earthly paradises in this part of the world, and collateral damage from major European players competing frantically to extend their colonies in the 17th century.

The Spanish noted it down on their expanding map of the world, but did not bother to settle permanently, being more interested in finding Eldorado with its fabled riches to fill the coffers of the Imperial crown. English attempts to settle there failed shortly afterwards.

Grenada was colonised by the Governor of Martinique and subsequently became a French possession in 1674. They named the island Le Grenade and it became a wealthy colony, exporting mainly sugar. Cardinal Richelieu ordered the establishment of Fort Royal, later to be renamed St George’s by the British, to provide shelter for the navy in the island’s incomparable natural harbour.

The history of Grenada continued apace as the British got their hands on it as part of the Treaty of Paris that concluded the Seven Years War in 1763, and Grenada stayed in British hands for almost two hundred years, despite a slave revolt in 1795.

Things started to pick up again when the scattered remnants of the British Empire started to implode in the 1940s, and the United Labour Party under Matthew Gairy won universal adult suffrage rights in 1950. The whole of the Windward Islands, including Grenada and the Grenadines, became self-governing in 1956 and joined the West Indies Federation, which lasted until 1962.

In 1974 Grenada under Gairy gained full independence, although he was himself deposed in a coup led by Maurice Bishop in 1979. As Bishop was head of the New Jewel Movement which espoused Marxist principles and closer links with Cuba and the USSR, this was tantamount to begging for American military intervention. When he was killed in another coup in 1983 the US duly obliged, leaving later in the same year after establishing a democratic government.

Throughout the 1980s under Prime Minister Herbert Blaise, Grenada established a degree of political stability, though an austerity programme had to be introduced at the end of the decade following near collapse of the economy.
Keith Mitchell’s NNP party won elections in 1995; he was defeated in 2008 by Tillman Thomas, and sworn in as Leader of the Opposition eight days later.

Considering their turbulent history as chess pieces in European power struggles, it’s a little ironic that what tourists most value in the Grenadines nowadays is precisely what was already there before Columbus breezed through: peace and tranquillity.

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