Possibly the most famous moment in Grenadian history came when the native Carib inhabitants jumped from a cliff to avoid surrendering to French troops. However, there's more to these islanders than this event suggests, and the history of Grenada has certainly been interesting.
When Columbus "discovered" Grenada, it was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven the Arawak tribe from the island. Columbus, however, never set foot on the island, simply naming it "Concepcion" as he passed by in 1498. Spanish sailors thought that the island greatly resembled Andalucia and renamed it Granada. Though the British attempted to take control of the island in 1609, they were unable to gain a foothold against the Caribs.
The French explorers on Martinique turned their eyes southward toward Grenada and laid claim to land there in 1650, calling the island Grenade. They purchased much of the island's land from the Caribs with beads and tools, and bought the island itself from the British. Tensions quickly escalated. The French were not content with their purchased portion of land and attempted to take control of the entire island.
This fight for the island spawned Grenada's most famous historic moment. Caribs jumped from what the French then called Le Morne de Sauteurs, "Leaper's Hill." However, the French spent the better part of the next century trying to maintain control of the island while the British attempted to take the island back. In fact, St. George's Harbour is guarded to this day by Fort George and Fort Frederick, built to protect the island from the British.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave control of the island back to the British. The French again took the island in 1779, and the Treaty of Versailles returned the island once again to the English in 1783. The British quickly moved to import slaves and begin cultivating sugarcane.
Ten years later, another French-Revolution-inspired revolt took place, but this 1795 uprising was quashed, and Grenada remained under British rule. Black planter Julian Fedon led the island slaves in this violent rebellion, and race relations continued to be strained from the time that the revolt was put down until slavery was abolished in 1834. Fedon's Camp is now a popular historical spot.
Though Grenada initially produce sugarcane, there were difficulties with the crop. King George III's botanical adviser, Sir Joseph Banks, opened the door to spice production on this island by introducing nutmeg in 1782. Cocoa was also widely produced at this time.
Though Grenada was not the only place in the world to produce nutmeg, it quickly rose in importance because of its location. Europe had been importing nutmeg from than Dutch East Indies, but Grenada soon became the favored supplier due to its closer location. This style of agriculture led to the fall of the large plantation and the rise of the yeoman farmer. As such, the abolition of slavery was not as harmful to the nation's economy as it was on many other islands.
From 1833 and throughout the rest of the colonial period, Grenada's government was administered by the British Windward Islands Administration. In 1877, however, Grenada became a Crown Colony. In 1957, the Federation of the West Indies took the place of the British Windward Islands Administration, which was dissolved. The Federation collapsed just a few short years later, in 1962.
Britain tried to form yet another small federation of its Caribbean territories, including Grenada, but this failed as well. In 1967, Grenada became a state within the British Commonwealth. Seven years later, Grenada gained its independence.
In 1979, leaders attempted to establish a Communist government. In 1983, the Governor General requested that the U.S., Jamaica, and other Eastern Caribbean countries invade Grenada to halt these efforts. December 1984 marked the next free election, and Herbert Blaize and the New National Party (NNP) won 14 of 15 government seats.
The NNP remained in power until 1989, but many members left the party in 1986 and 1987 to form the National Democratic Congress (NDC). This group became the official opposition party to the NNP. Blaize himself left the NNP to form The National Party (TNP) in August 1989, but died in December of that same year. This split in the NNP resulted in the formation of a minority government. Ben Jones succeeded Blaize as prime minister until constitutionally scheduled elections in March 1990, in which the NDC came out on top by winning seven seats. Two members of the TNP and one member of the Grenada United Labor Party also took seats. In 1995, the NNP took the majority of the seats, and Dr. Keith Mitchell took the role of leader.
The government is currently working to expand tourism while protecting Grenada's natural resources. A well-developed system of National Parks is helping to keep Grenada's environment pristine and give visitors a delightful tropical experience.
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