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  About Dominica

Brief History



A Brief History of Dominica


Dominica was discovered by Christopher Columbus on November 3, 1493, during his second voyage to the New World. At that time, the island was inhabited by Indians who called themselves the Kalinago - also referred to as Carib Indians.


Originally, the  Kalinago were inaccurately described as warlike - the truth being they were and are a gentle people, pushed to violence only when their way of life was threatened.   During the 14th century they drove off the islandís indigenous Arawak Indians. Dominica is the only island in the eastern Caribbean to retain a colony of its pre-Columbian population. Nearly 500 live within a reserve on the Dominicaís east coast.


Favorable currents and prevailing winds, easily and frequently delivered Spanish ships to Dominica and other nearby islands during the 16th century.  Unyielding resistance by the Caribs /  Kalinago frustrated the Spanish, discouraging them from effective settlement. France claimed Dominica in 1635 as Spanish power declined. French missionaries became the first Europeanís to live on the island.


Carib Indian incursions continued and, in 1660, the French and British agreed that Dominica should be left to the Indians. Dominica was officially politically European neutral for the next century. Because of Dominicaís location between the French held islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, a French settlement was eventually established on the island. 


As part of The 1763 Treaty of Paris the island became a British possession whereas they established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the French mounted a successful invasion of Dominica with the cooperation from the many French settlers still living on the island. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, ended hostilities with the island being to Britain.

However, several navel skirmishes and attempted invasions by the  French between 1795 and 1805 ensued. To hold off the French, the British constructed the Fort Shirley garrison at the north end of island's Cabrits mountain area, overlooking Prince Rupert Bay.


In 1831, as British racial attitudes softened, the Brown Privilege Bill passed which provided political and social rights for nonwhites. The following year, three blacks were elected to the Legislative Assembly. By 1838, blacks dominated the legislative body. These new legislators were mostly small business owners had economic and social views often opposed to the interests of the wealthy English merchants / farmers. Reacting to the threat, the British citizens lobbied for more direct British rule. After much tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one of half elected members in 1865. Then in 1871, Dominica became a federal colony attached to the Leeward Islands. Subsequently, the power of the black population eroded until crown colony government was forced on the assembly in 1896. All political rights for the vast majority of the black population were essentially curtailed.


After World War I, a surge of political awareness throughout the Caribbean led to the creation of the Representative Government Association. Between this point and 1966 Dominica politics shifted across a variety of venues and changes. Then, in 1967, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom, formally taking responsibility of its internal affairs.


On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom.


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