Guadeloupe has been a French possession since 1635. The island of Saint
Martin is shared with the Netherlands; its southern portion is named Sint
Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles and its northern portion
is named Saint-Martin and is part of Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe was discovered by Columbus in 1493, and received its name
in honour of the monastery of S. Maria de Guadalupe at Estremadura in Spain.
In 1635 L'Olive and Duplessis took possession of it in the name of the
French Company of the Islands of America, and L'Olive exterminated the
Caribs with great cruelty.
Four chartered companies were ruined in their attempts to colonize the
island, and in 1674 it passed into the possession of the French crown and
long remained a dependency of Martinique. After unsuccessful attempts in
1666, 1691 and 1703, the British captured the island in 1759, and held
it for four years. Guadeloupe was finally separated from Martinique in
1775, but it remained under the governor of the French Windward Islands.
In 1782, Rodney defeated the French fleet near the island, and the British
again obtained possession in April 1794, but in the following summer they
were driven out by Victor Hugues with the assistance of the slaves whom
he had liberated for the purpose.
In 1802 Bonaparte, then first consul, sent an expedition to the island
in order to re-establish slavery, but, after a heroic defence, many of
the negroes preferred suicide to submission. During the Hundred Days in
1810, the British once more occupied the island, but, in spite of its cession
to Sweden by the treaty of 1813 and a French invasion in 1814, they did
not withdraw till 1816. Between 1816 and 1825 the code of laws peculiar
to the island was introduced. Municipal institutions were established in
1837; and slavery was finally abolished in 1848.
The Caribbean economy depends on agriculture, tourism, light industry,
and services. It also depends on France for large subsidies and imports.
Tourism is a key industry, with most tourists from the US; an increasingly
large number of cruise ships visit the islands. The traditional sugarcane
crop is slowly being replaced by other crops, such as bananas (which now
supply about 50% of export earnings), eggplant, and flowers. Other vegetables
and root crops are cultivated for local consumption, although Guadeloupe
is still dependent on imported food, mainly from France. Light industry
features sugar and rum production. Most manufactured goods and fuel are
imported. Unemployment is especially high among the young. Hurricanes periodically
devastate the economy.
* A portion of the text is from the public domain print edition of the
1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica.