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