History of Grenada


History of Grenada

=Early History=

Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by Carib Indians who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus sighted 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 one hundred 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 leapt into the sea rather than surrender.

18th century

The island remained under French control until its capture by the British in 1762, during the Seven Years' War. Grenada was formally ceded to the Kingdom of Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1763). Although the French regained control during the American War of Independence , winning the Battle of Grenada in July 1779, the island was restored to Britain with the Treaty of Versailles (1783). 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.

19th century

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.

20th century and independence

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 islanders developed the concept of "associated statehood". Under the Associated Statehood Act in 1967 Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs in March of that year. 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.

Revolution and US invasion

On March 13, 1979, the New Jewel Movement launched an armed revolution which removed Gairy, suspended the constitution, and established a People's Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop who declared himself prime minister. His Marxist-Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, Nicaragua, and other communist bloc countries. All political parties except for the New Jewel Movement were banned and no elections were held during the four years of PRG rule.

In October 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the illegal house arrest of Bishop at the order of his Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard. Bishop's removal from office resulted in demonstrations in various parts of the island which eventually led to Bishop ceasing to be under house arrest. Coard's forces eventually executed Bishop and seven others including members of the cabinet.

After Bishop's death the military under Hudson Austin took power and formed a military government to run the country. A four-day total curfew was declared under which any civilian outside their home was subject to summary execution. A U.S.-Caribbean force landed on Grenada on October 25, 1983 in an action called "Operation Urgent Fury". This action was taken in response to an appeal obtained from the governor general and to a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, without consulting the island's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, Commonwealth institutions or other usual diplomatic channels (as had been done in Anguilla). Furthermore, United States government military strategists feared that Soviet use of the island would enable the Soviet Union to project tactical power over the entire Caribbean region. U.S. citizens were evacuated, and constitutional government was resumed.

Seventeen members of the PRG and the PRA (army) were convicted by a court. Fourteen were sentenced to death for actions related to the overthrow of the Bishop government and the murder of several persons including Bishop. The sentences were eventually commuted to life imprisonment after an international campaign. Another three were sentenced to forty five years in prison. These seventeen have become known as the Grenada 17, and are the subject of an ongoing international campaign for their release. In October 2003 Amnesty International issued a report which stated that their trial had been a miscarriage of justice. The seventeen have protested their sentences consistently since 1983.

After the invasion, United States gave $48.4 million in economic assistance to Grenada in 1984.

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 fourteen out of fifteen seats in 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.

Late 20th century

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 fifteen 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 fifteen parliamentary seats in the January 1999 elections.

21st century

Truth and reconciliation commission

In 2000-2002 much of the controversy of the late 1970s and early 1980s was once again brought into the public consciousness with the opening of the truth and reconciliation commission. The commission was chaired by a Catholic priest, Father Mark Haynes, and was tasked with uncovering injustices arising from the PRA, Bishop's regime, and before. It held a number of hearings around the country. The commission was formed, bizarrely, because of a school project. Brother Robert Fanovich, head of Presentation Brothers' College (PBC) in St. George's tasked some of his senior students with conducting a research project into the era and specifically into the fact that Maurice Bishop's body was never discovered. Their project attracted a great deal of attention, including from the Miami Herald and the final report was published in a book written by the boys called "Big Sky, Little Bullet". It also uncovered that there was still a lot of resentment in Grenadian society resulting from the era, and a feeling that there were many injustices still unaddressed. The commission began shortly after the boys concluded their project.

Hurricane Ivan

On September 7, 2004, Grenada was hit directly by category four Hurricane Ivan. The hurricane destroyed about 85% of the structures on the island, including the prison and the prime minister's residence, killed thirty nine people, and destroyed most of the nutmeg crop, Grenada's main economic mainstay. Grenada's economy was set back several years by Hurricane Ivan's impact. Hurricane Emily ravaged the island's north end in June 2005.

Further reading

* Kurlansky, Mark. 1992. "A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny". Addison-Wesley Publishing. ISBN 0-201-52396-5.

External links

* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2335.htm Background Note: Grenada]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/northamerica/grenada.html History of Grenada]


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