Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by Carib Indians
who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus landed
on Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the new world. He named the
island "Concepcion." The origin of the name "Grenada" is obscure, but it
is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the name "Grenada," or "la Grenade"
in French, was in common use.
Partly because of the Caribs, Grenada remained uncolonized for more
than 100 years after its discovery; early English efforts to settle the
island were unsuccessful. In 1650, a French company founded by Cardinal
Richelieu purchased Grenada from the English and established a small settlement.
After several skirmishes with the Caribs, the French brought in reinforcements
from Martinique and defeated the Caribs the last of whom leaped into the
sea rather than surrender.
The island remained under French control until its capture by the British
in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. Grenada was formally ceded to Great
Britain in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Although the French regained control
in 1779, the island was restored to Britain in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles.
Although Britain was hard pressed to overcome a pro-French revolt in 1795
Grenada remained British for the remainder of the colonial period.
During the 18th century, Grenada's economy underwent an important transition.
Like much of the rest of the West Indies it was originally settled to cultivate
sugar which was grown on estates using slave labor. But natural disasters
paved the way for the introduction of other crops. In 1782, Sir Joseph
Banks, the botanical adviser to King George III, introduced nutmeg to Grenada.
The island's soil was ideal for growing the spice and because Grenada was
a closer source of spices for Europe than the Dutch East Indies the island
assumed a new importance to European traders.
The collapse of the sugar estates and the introduction of nutmeg and
cocoa encouraged the development of smaller land holdings, and the island
developed a land-owning yeoman farmer class. Slavery was outlawed in 1834.
In 1833, Grenada became part of the British Windward Islands Administration.
The governor of the Windward Islands administered the island for the rest
of the colonial period. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration was
dissolved, and Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies. After
that federation collapsed in 1962, the British Government tried to form
a small federation out of its remaining dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean.
Following the failure of this second effort, the British and the islands
developed the concept of associated statehood. Under the Associated Statehood
Act of 1967 Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs
in March 1967. Full independence was granted on February 7, 1974.
After obtaining independence, Grenada adopted a modified Westminster
parliamentary system based on the British model with a governor general
appointed by and representing the British monarch (head of state) and a
prime minister who is both leader of the majority party and the head of
government. Sir Eric Gairy was Grenada's first prime minister.
On March 13, 1979, the new joint endeavor for welfare, education, and
liberation (New Jewel) movement ousted Gairy in a nearly bloodless coup
and established a people's revolutionary government (PRG), headed by Maurice
Bishop who became prime minister. His Marxist-Leninist government established
close ties with Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other communist bloc countries.
In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in
the arrest and subsequent murder of Bishop and several members of his cabinet
by elements of the people's revolutionary army. Following a breakdown in
civil order, a U.S.-Caribbean force landed on Grenada on October 25 in
response to an appeal from the governor general and to a request for assistance
from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. U.S. citizens were evacuated,
and order was restored.
An advisory council named by the governor general administered the country
until general elections were held in December 1984. The New National Party
(NNP) led by Herbert Blaize won 14 out of 15 seats in free and fair elections
and formed a democratic government. Grenada's constitution had been suspended
in 1979 by the PRG but it was restored after the 1984 elections.
The NNP continued in power until 1989 but with a reduced majority. Five
NNP parliamentary members, including two cabinet ministers, left the party
in 1986-87 and formed the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which became
the official opposition.
In August 1989, Prime Minister Blaize broke with the NNP to form another
new party, The National Party (TNP), from the ranks of the NNP. This split
in the NNP resulted in the formation of a minority government until constitutionally
scheduled elections in March 1990. Prime Minister Blaize died in December
1989 and was succeeded as prime minister by Ben Jones until after the elections.
The NDC emerged from the 1990 elections as the strongest party, winning
seven of the 15 available seats. Nicholas Brathwaite added two TNP members
and one member of the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) to create a 10-seat
majority coalition. The governor general appointed him to be prime minister.
In parliamentary elections on June 20, 1995, the NNP won eight seats
and formed a government headed by Dr. Keith Mitchell. The NNP maintained
and affirmed its hold on power when it took all 15 parliamentary seats
in the January 1999 elections.