Tuesday, May 16, 2006

History of Martinique

History of Martinique. This brief essay has a history of the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. Probably the most well known event in the history of the island was the eruption of Mt. Pele in 1902. It is estimated that 40,000 people died.

The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that Martinique is an, "Island (pop., 2002 est.: 386,000) of the Windward Islands, West Indies, and overseas department of France. It is 50 mi (80 km) long and 22 mi (35 km) wide and occupies an area of 436 sq mi (1,128 sq km). Largely mountainous, its highest point, Mount Pelée, is an active volcano. Its capital is Fort-de-France. Tourism is the basis of its economy. "

From the site:

Martinique, the name of which may be derived from a native form Madiana or Mantinino, was probably discovered by Columbus on the 15th of June 1502; although by some authorities its discovery is placed in 1493. It was at that time inhabited by Caribs who had expelled or incorporated an older stock. It was not until the 25th of June 1635 that possession was taken of the island in the name of the French Compagnie des Iles d'Amerique. Actual settlement was carried out in the same year by Pierre Belain, Sieur d'Esnambuc, captain-general of the island of St Christopher. In 1637, his nephew Dyel Duparquet (d. 1658) became captain-general of the colony, now numbering seven hundred men, and subsequently obtained the seigneurie of the island by purchase from the company under the authority of the king of France.

In 1654, welcome was given to three hundred Jews expelled from Brazil, and by 1658 there were at least five thousand people exclusive of the Caribs, who were soon after exterminated. Purchased by the French government from Duparquet's children for 120,000 livres, Martinique was assigned to the West India Company, but in 1674 it became part of the royal domain. The habitants (French landholders) at first devoted themselves to the cultivation of cotton and tobacco; but in 1650 sugar plantations were begun, and in 1723 the coffee plant was introduced. Slave labour having been introduced at an early period of the occupation, there were 60,000 blacks in the island by 1736. This slavery was abolished in 1860.

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