History & Culture
Christopher Columbus sailed by Grenada in 1498, the island was already
inhabited by the Carib Indians. The admiral dubbed the island Concepcion,
but passing Spanish sailors found its lush green hills so evocative
of Andalusia that they rejected this name in favor of Granada. The
French then adapted Granada to Grenade, and the British followed suit,
changing Grenade to Grenada (pronounced Gre-nay-da). Although none
of the European powers had any trouble naming the island, they found
colonization a much more difficult prospect. For a century and a half,
the Caribs repulsed all attempts at European settlement, until an enterprising
French expedition from Martinique succeeded in purchasing extensive
tracts of land in return for a few beads, knives, and hatchets. Hostilities
between the Caribs and the French broke out almost immediately afterward,
as the French endeavoured to extend their control over the whole of
the island. Determined not to submit to French rule, the Caribs fought
a succession of losing battles, and ultimately the last surviving Caribs
jumped to their death off a precipice in the north of the island. The
French named the spot "Le Morne de Sauteurs," or "Leapers'
For the next ninety years, the French
struggled unsuccessfully to keep the island from falling into the
hands of the British. Fort George and
Fort Frederick, which still command the heights overlooking St.
George's harbour, are relics of that fight. Finally, under the Treaty
of Versailles in 1783, the island was permanently ceded to the British.
Having gained stable possession of Grenada, the British immediately
imported large numbers of slaves from Africa and established sugar
plantations. In 1795, however, British control was seriously challenged
once again, this time by Julian Fedon, a black planter inspired by
the French Revolution. Under Fedon's leadership, the island's slaves
rose up in a violent rebellion, effectively taking control of Grenada.
Although the rebellion was crushed by the British, tensions remained
high until slavery was abolished in 1834. The site of Fedon's
Camp, high up in Grenada's beautiful central mountains, is today
a popular destination for hikers and trekkers.
1877 Grenada became a Crown Colony, and in 1967 it became an associate
state within the British Commonwealth before gaining independence
in 1974. Despite the island's long history of British rule, the island's
French heritage (both colonial and revolutionary) survives in its
place names, its buildings, and its strong Catholicism.
In 1979, an attempt was made
to set up a socialist/communist state in Grenada. Four years later,
request of the Governor General, the United States, Jamaica, and
the Eastern Caribbean States intervened militarily. Launching their
now famous "rescue mission," the allied forces restored
order, and in December of 1984 a general election re-established
The last decade has been a period of considerable
development in Grenada. While the expansion of the tourist industry
has proceeded rapidly, the island nation has taken great care to
protect their magnificent natural environment. National
Parks have been developed, and the protection of both the rain
forest and the coral reefs continues to be a high priority.