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.