A Short History of Guadeloupe

The first recorded inhabitants in the history of Guadeloupe were Arawak Indians, a peaceful and civilized tribe.

Carib (Caraibe or Karib) warriors, a wild cannibalistic tribe, moved in on the Arawaks and killed them all.

Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter the islands, doing so in 1493.

The Carib Indians were calling the main island Karukera (Island of beautiful waters) but Columbus renamed it Guadeloupe.

The Caribs, a fierce and sturdy bunch, refused to allow Spanish settlers land through the next hundred years.

The beginnings of French involvement in the history of Guadeloupe

French colonists, mostly from the Normandie and supported by French entrepeneurs, established a settlement on the island in 1635.

France claimed Guadeloupe as a colony and quickly attended to driving off the Caribs.

It remains a colony of France today and that is why it is another place you can learn French here or practise your French speaking skills here.

The French imported African slaves to work on young sugar plantations and within ten years were producing and exporting sugar as well as coffee and cocoa at a handsome profit.

England coveted occupation of the islands and invaded them a number of times, as did the Dutch, in the mid 1700s.

Pointe-a-Pitre, a major harbor, was controlled by the English who exported sugar and imported cheap goods from North America .

The economy expanded, making the English and the French quite wealthy.

The area became active with pirating and buccaneeering in the Caribbean seas.

In 1763 France, trading claims in Canada under the Treaty of Paris agreement, again took full control of Guadeloupe.

One year later, England once again invaded while France was preoccupied with the French Revolution in Europe.

France did not take the invasion lightly and sent military troops to Gaudeloupe.

Victor Hugues, a black nationalist, led the army made up of French militia and freed slaves and England seceded.

Hugues then went on to kill Royalist plantation owners.

More than a thousand colonists were executed during the rampage in a very bloody period in the history of Guadeloupe.

When Hughes went too far and attacked American ships, the United States declared war on France.

Napoleon Bonaparte, under fear of American invasion, immediately saw to it that the killing melee be arrested.

Guadeloupe became the most prosperous island in the French West Indies in the 19th century.

England, undaunted, continued to invade and occupied the island for 15 years in the early 1800s.

France again was given total control over Guadeloupe by the Treaty of Vienna in 1816 and France today claims Guadeloupe as its possession.

In 1848 slavery was abolished but plantation owners brought in cheap indentured laborers from India and China.

Progress continued until rising costs in Europe and the Americas resulted in a decrease in export revenue and Guadeloupe began to feel the pangs of economic hunger.

Plantation owners lost their estates to foreign companies.

Agriculturalists decided to try their luck with bananas, pineapples and rice.

Yet, sugar and rum are today's main exports. Sixty percent of Guadeloupe's exports go to France, further underpinning the role of the French in the history of Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe has representatives in the French parliament and since 1946 has been an overseas department of France.

Guadeloupe citizens were allowed the choice of independence or French possession (which included subsidies and military aid) in 1958. They chose to stay under France's wings.

Guadeloupe flies the French flag and uses the French postal system. Laws follow the French Code.

The islands of Martinique, French Guyana and Guadeloupe have formed an alliance under the Declaration de Basse-Terre.

In recent years, political unrest has arisen, and there have been acts of terrorism by radicals.

Gendarmes patrol the streets.

In 1970 the active volcano, La Soufriere, erupted and caused considerable destruction and from 2001 to 2002, the island experienced unusually heavy drought.

Hurricanes often seem to find their way to the region.

In recent history of Guadeloupe unemployment has remained high, especially among the youth. The unemployment rate is almost one third.

Guadeloupe depends on tourism and agriculture for its economy with most tourists in the recent history of Guadeloupe coming from the United States.

Guadeloupe is a popular port for cruise ships.

contributed by Jan Michele

In addition to the history of Guadeloupe you can find other facts & stats

More information on Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe Information & Statistics | Learn to speak French Language in Guadeloupe | Guadeloupe Maps |

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