Saint Lucia is an island nation in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. Its size is 620 km² with an estimated population of 160,000. Its capital is Castries. The island nation has been the home of two Nobel laureates, Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott, and so can claim the distinction of being the nation with the most such honorees per capita in the world.
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse. It was first visited by Europeans in about the year 1500 and first colonized successfully by France who signed a treaty with the native Carib peoples in 1660. Great Britain took control of the island from 1663 to 1667 then went to war with France over it fourteen times, and finally took complete control in 1814. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies" as it was likened to the mythical Helen of Troy. Representative government came about in 1924 and from 1958 to 1962 the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. Finally, on February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations. The island nation celebrates this every year with a public holiday. It is also a member of La Francophonie. 20.9 % of the population of Saint Lucia live on less than $5.00 a day.
Saint Lucia is one of many small land masses composing the insular group known as the Windward Islands. Unlike large limestone areas such as Florida, Cuba, and the Yucatan Peninsula, or the Bahamas, which is a small island group composed of coral and sand, St. Lucia is a typical Windward Island formation of volcanic rock that came into existence long after much of the region had already been formed.
St. Lucia's physical features are strikingly beautiful. Dominated by high peaks and rain forests in the interior, the 616 square-kilometer island is known for the twin peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton on the southwestern coast, its soft sandy beaches, and its magnificent natural harbors. Mount Gimie, the highest peak, is located in the central mountain range and rises to 958 meters above sea level, a contrast that is also evident in the abrupt climatic transition from coastal to inland areas. The steep terrain also accentuates the many rivers that flow from central St. Lucia to the Caribbean. Fertile land holdings, which support banana farming, are scattered throughout the island.
St. Lucia has a tropical, humid climate moderated by northeast trade winds that allow for pleasant year-round conditions. Mean annual temperatures range from 26 to 32 °C at sea level and drop to an average of 13 °C in the mountain peaks. The abundant annual rainfall accumulates to approximately 200 centimeters, with most precipitation occurring during the June to December wet season. Hurricanes are the most severe climatic disturbance in this area and have been known to cause extensive damage. Although St. Lucia has historically been spared from serious hurricane destruction, Hurricane Allen decimated the agricultural sector and claimed nine lives in 1980.
Saint Lucia is in the tropical zone, although its climate is moderated by northeast trade winds. Since it's fairly close to the equator, the temperature doesn't fluctuate much between winter and summer. The dry season is from december to june, and the rainy season is from june to november . Average daytime temperatures are around 29° C, and average nighttime temperatures are around 18° C. Average annual rainfall ranges from 130 cm on the coast to 381 cm in the mountain rainforests.
Although the French pirate Pete 'stinky' flintstone frequented Saint Lucia in the 1550s, it was not until years later, around 1600, that the first European camp was started by the Dutch, at what is now Vieux Fort. In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia but after five weeks only 19 of them remained due to disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island.
The French officially claimed the island in 1635 but it was the English that started the next European settlement in 1639, which was wiped out by the Caribs. It was not until 1651 that the French came, this time from Martinique, commanded by De Rousselan, who held the island until his death in 1654.
In 1664, Thomas Warner claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1,000 men there to defend it from the French, but after two years there were only 89 left, mostly due to disease. For years after this, the island was official traded back and forth between the English and the French in various treaties, as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered on Martinique, found St. Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed in 1765. Colonists who came over were mostly indentured white servants serving a small percentage of wealthy merchants or nobles. Conflict with the Caribs increased as more and more land was taken.
The Battle of St. Lucia took place between the French and British forces during the American War of Independence on 15 December 1778.
Near the end of the century, the French Revolution occurred, and a revolutionary tribunal was sent to Saint Lucia, headed by captain La Crosse. Bringing the ideas of the revolution to Saint Lucia, he set up a guillotine that was used to execute Royalists. In 1794, the French governor of the island declared that all slaves were free, but only a short time later the British invaded again in response to the concerns of the wealthy plantation owners, and restored slavery after years of fighting. Castries was burned in 1796 as part of that battle between the British and the slaves and French republicans.
Britain eventually triumphed, with France permanently ceding Saint Lucia in 1814. The British abolished the African slave trade in 1807, three years after former slaves in Haiti had gained their independence as the first black republic in the Caribbean, but it was not until 1834 that slavery was actually abolished on Saint Lucia. Even after slavery was officially abolished, all former slaves had to serve a four-year "apprenticeship" which forced them to work for free for their former slavemasters for at least three-quarters of the work week, with final freedom in 1838.
Also in 1838, Saint 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 and Nevis and 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 of Nations. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean community and common market , the East Caribbean Common Market , and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States .