Grenada is an island country and sovereign state consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Its size is 344 km² with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George's. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada Dove.
The island Grenada itself is the largest island; smaller Grenadines are Carriacou, Petit Martinique, Ronde Island, Caille Island, Diamond Island, Large Island, Saline Island and Frigate Island. Most of the population lives on Grenada itself, and major towns there include the capital, St. George’s, Grenville and Gouyave. The largest settlement on the other islands is Hillsborough on Carriacou.
The islands are of volcanic origin with extremely rich soil. Grenada’s interior is very mountainous with Mount St. Catherine being the highest at 2,756 feet (840 m). Several small rivers with beautiful waterfalls flow into the sea from these mountains. The climate is tropical: hot and humid in the rainy season and cooled by the trade winds in the dry season. Grenada, being on the Southern edge of the hurricane belt, has suffered only three hurricanes in fifty years. Hurricane Janet passed over Grenada on 23 September 1955 with winds of 115 mph, causing severe damage. The most recent storms to hit have been Hurricane Ivan on September 7, 2004 causing severe damage and thirty-nine deaths and Hurricane Emily on July 14, 2005, causing serious damage in Carriacou and in the north of Grenada which had been relatively lightly affected by Hurricane Ivan.
The recorded history of Grenada begins in 1498. At the time the indigenous Island Caribs who lived there called it Camahogne. The Spaniards did not permanently settle on Camahogne. Later the English failed their first settlement attempts, but the French fought and conquered Grenada from the Caribs circa 1650. The French conquest resulted in the genocide of 17th century Caribs from present-day Grenada. Warfare also existed between the Caribs of present day Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the French invaders. The French took control of Camahogne and named the new French colony La Grenade. La Grenade prospered as a wealthy French colony; its main export was sugar. The French established a capital known as Fort Royal in 1650 as ordered by Cardinal Richelieu. To wait out harsh hurricanes, the French navy would shelter in the capital's natural harbour. No other French colony had a natural harbour to even compare with that of Fort Royal . The colony was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. A century later, in 1877 Grenada was made a Crown Colony.
The island was a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. In 1967, Grenada attained the status of “Associated State of the United Kingdom”, which meant that Grenada was now responsible for her own internal affairs, and the UK was responsible for her defence and foreign affairs. Independence was granted in 1974 under the leadership of the then Premier, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, who became the first Prime Minister of Grenada.
Civil conflict gradually broke out between Eric Gairy’s government and some opposition parties including the New Jewel Movement . Gairy’s party won elections in 1976 but the opposition did not accept the result, accusing it of fraudulence. In 1979, the New Jewel Movement under Maurice Bishop launched a paramilitary attack on the government resulting in its overthrow. The constitution was suspended and Bishop's government ruled subsequently by decree. Cuban presence was welcomed and heavily invested in civic assistance during the ensuing era. Agrarian reforms started by the Gairy government were continued and greatly expanded under the revolutionary government of Maurice Bishop.
Some years later a dispute developed between Bishop and certain high-ranking members of the NJM. Though Bishop was cooperating with Cuba and USSR on various trade and foreign policy issues, he sought to maintain a "non-aligned" status. Bishop had been taking his time making Grenada wholly socialist, encouraging private-sector development in an attempt to make the island a popular tourist destination. Hard Marxist party members, including communist Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, deemed Bishop insufficiently revolutionary and demanded that he either step down or enter into a power sharing arrangement.
On October 19, 1983, Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis, backed by the Grenadian Army, led a coup against the government of Maurice Bishop, who was placed under house arrest. These actions led to street demonstrations in various parts of the island. Bishop had massive support among the population and was eventually freed by a large demonstration in the capital. When they attempted to resume power Bishop was captured and executed by soldiers along with seven others, including cabinet ministers of the government. The Coard regime then put the island under martial law.
After the execution of Bishop, the People's Revolutionary Army formed a military government with General Hudson Austin as chairman. The army declared a four-day total curfew during which it said that anyone leaving their home without approval would be shot on sight.
The overthrow of a moderate government by one which was strongly communist worried U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Of particular concern was the presence of Cuban construction workers and military personnel building a 10,000-foot airstrip on Grenada. Though Bishop had claimed the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land, Reagan believed its purpose was to allow military transport planes loaded with arms from Cuba to be transferred to Central American insurgents. Also weighing on Reagan was the security of the 800 American medical students enrolled at St. George's School of Medicine in the former British commonwealth. With the post-coup violence and anarchy, martial law, and the shoot-on-sight curfew, Reagan was joined by many of his advisers, as well as much of the American public, in believing that the rescue of the American students was sufficient justification for an invasion.
On October 25, Grenada was invaded by combined forces from the United States, the Regional Security System and Jamaica, in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. The U.S. stated this was done at the behest of Dame Eugenia Charles, of Dominica. While the Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, later stated that he had also requested the invasion, it was highly criticized by the governments of the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada. Queen Elizabeth II also condemned the attack, claiming it to be an attack on her commonwealth realms. The United Nations General Assembly condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law" by a vote of 108 in favor to 9, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution, which failed to pass when vetoed by the United States.
After the invasion of the island nation, the pre-revolutionary Grenadan constitution was resumed. Eighteen members of the PRG and the PRA were arrested after the invasion on charges related to the murder of Maurice Bishop and seven others. The eighteen included the top political leadership of Grenada at the time of the execution as well as the entire military chain of command directly responsible for the operation that led to the executions. Fourteen were sentenced to death, one was found not guilty and three were sentenced to forty-five years in prison. The death sentences were eventually commuted to terms of imprisonment. Those in prison have become known as the Grenada 17.