St. Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come
from northern South America 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites
on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery.
Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period 800-1000 A.D.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's
early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all
tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but
faced opposition from hostile Caribs.
The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered
on Martinique, found St. Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed
in 1765. Britain eventually triumphed, with France permanently ceding St.
Lucia in 1815. In 1838, St. Lucia was incorporated into the British Windward
Islands administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885,
when the capital was moved to Grenada.
Increasing self-government has marked St. Lucia's 20th-century history.
A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of representative government,
with a minority of elected members in the previously all-nominated legislative
council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members
became a majority of the council. Ministerial government was introduced
in 1956, and in 1958 St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation,
a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation
collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller federation
was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and
the six windward and leeward islands--Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua,
St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St. Lucia--developed a novel form of cooperation
called associated statehood.
As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St.
Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its
external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom. This
interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia achieved
full independence. St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen Elizabeth II
as titular head of state and is an active member of the Commonwealth. The
island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean
community and common market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market
(ECCM), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Politics in St. Lucia was once dominated by the United Workers Party
(UWP), which, until 1997 had governed the country for all but three years
since independence. John Compton was premier of St. Lucia from 1964 until
independence in February 1979 and remained prime minister until elections
later that year.
The St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP) won the first post-independence elections
in July 1979, taking 12 of 17 seats in parliament. A period of turbulence
ensued, in which squabbling within the party led to several changes of
prime minister. Pressure from the private sector and the unions forced
the government to resign in 1982. New elections were then called and were
won resoundingly by Compton's UWP, which took 14 of 17 seats.
The UWP was elected for a second time in April 16, 1987, but with only
nine of 17 seats. Seeking to increase his slim margin, Prime Minister Compton
suspended parliament and called new elections on April 30. This unprecedented
snap election, however, gave Compton the same results as before--the UWP
retained nine seats and the SLP eight. In April 1992, Prime Minister Compton's
government again defeated the SLP. In this election, the government increased
its majority in parliament to 11 seats.
In 1996, Compton announced his resignation as prime minister in favor
of his chosen successor Dr. Vaughan Lewis, former director-general of the
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dr. Lewis became prime
minister and minister of finance, planning and development on April 2,
1996. The SLP also had a change of leadership with former CARICOM official
Dr. Kenny Anthony succeeding businessman Julian Hunte.
In elections held May 23, 1997, the St. Lucia Labor Party won all but
one of the 17 seats in Parliament, and Dr. Kenny Anthony became Prime Minister
and Minister of Finance, Planning and Development on May 24, 1997.
In elections of December 3, 2001 the St. Lucia Labor Party won 14 of
the 17 available seats. The leader of the UWP, Dr. Morella Joseph failed
to win a seat. Arsene James is the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition.
As a member of CARICOM, St. Lucia strongly backed efforts by the United
States to implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to restore
democracy to Haiti. The country agreed to contribute personnel to the multinational
force, which restored the democratically elected government of Haiti in
St. Lucia participated, along with 14 other Caribbean nations, in a
summit with President Clinton in Bridgetown, Barbados in May 1997. The
summit, which was the first-ever meeting in the region between the U.S.
and Caribbean heads of government, strengthened the basis for regional
cooperation on justice and counternarcotics, finance and development, and