island, West Indies
Island country, Windward Islands, in the eastern Caribbean Sea.
Area: 238 sq mi (617 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 161,000.
Capital: Castries. Most of the population is of African descent.
Languages: English (official), French patois. Religions: Christianity
(Roman Catholic, Protestant); also Rastafarianism. Currency: Eastern
Caribbean dollar. Saint Lucia is of volcanic origin; within the Qualibou
Caldera is Sulphur Springs, which continues to emit steam and gases and
is a prime tourist attraction. Wooded mountains run north-south,
culminating in Mount Gimie (3,145 ft [958.6 m]). The economy is based on
agriculture and tourism. Saint Lucia is a constitutional monarchy with a
parliament of two legislative houses; its chief of state is the British
monarch represented by the governor-general, and the head of government
is the prime minister. Caribs replaced early Arawak inhabitants c. ad
800–1300. Settled by the French in 1650, Saint Lucia was ceded to Great
Britain in 1814 and became one of the Windward Islands in 1871. It
became fully independent in 1979.
Official name Saint Lucia
Form of government constitutional monarchy with a Parliament consisting
of two legislative chambers (Senate ; House of Assembly )
Chief of state British Monarch represented by Governor-General
Head of government Prime Minister
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)
Population estimate (2008) 171,000
Total area (sq mi) 238
Total area (sq km) 617
1All seats are nonelected.
2Represents elected seats only; the speaker may be elected from
outside the House of Assembly.
island, West Indies
island state in the Caribbean Sea. The second largest of the Windward
group in the Lesser Antilles, it is located about 24 miles (39
kilometres) south of Martinique and some 21 miles northeast of Saint
Vincent. Saint Lucia is 27 miles long and has a maximum width of 14
miles. The capital and major port is Castries. Saint Lucia is a member
of the Commonwealth.
Physical and human geography
Relief and drainage
The island is of volcanic origin and is bisected from north to south
by a central ridge of wooded mountains, the highest point being Mount
Gimie (3,145 feet [958.6 metres]). Many streams flow from the mountains
through fertile valleys. In the southwest are the Gros and Petit peaks
(2,619 feet and 2,461 feet), two immense pyramids of rock rising sharply
from the sea and enclosing a small bay. Near Petit Peak, in the crater
of an ancient volcano, are the boiling sulphur springs from which the
nearby town of Soufrière takes its name. A choice tourist site, the
springs also contain substantial energy potential.
Plant and animal life
The forest, which has been reduced through lumbering, contains
colourful orchids and anthurium. The rich birdlife includes the Saint
Lucian parrot (the endangered national bird), the Saint Lucia black
finch, and the Saint Lucia oriole. There is also a lizard unique to
Saint Lucia, and the agouti is common.
Saint Lucia lies in the path of the northeastern trade winds and has
a tropical maritime climate. Rainfall and temperature vary with
elevation. Average annual rainfall ranges from 51 inches (1,295
millimetres) on the coast to as much as 150 inches (3,810 millimetres)
in the interior. There is a dry season roughly from January to April and
a rainy season from May to November. The mean temperature is about 80° F
(27° C), with highs sometimes ranging into the upper 80s and lows into
the upper 60s.
No Caribs remain on the island; the vast majority of the inhabitants
of the island are black and there is a small minority of mulattoes and
other mixtures. The remainder are whites or of East Indian extraction. A
French patois is spoken by most of the inhabitants but is being
gradually supplanted by English, the official language. The main
religion is Roman Catholicism, and Seventh-day Adventists and Anglicans
are important minorities. The rate of population growth for Saint Lucia
is slightly higher than the Caribbean average. The main population
centres are Castries and Vieux Fort.
Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
Sugarcane was formerly the chief crop, but production ceased entirely in
1964, when most of the cane fields were converted to banana cultivation.
Bananas are now the principal crop. Other crops are coconuts, cacao,
citrus and other fruit, spices, cassava, and yams. There is a steady
local fishing industry.
Saint Lucia’s manufacturing sector has been a major beneficiary of
the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative, a program designed to promote
manufacturing in the region. An industrial free zone has been
established in the south of the island near Vieux Fort; there factories
produce and export electronic goods and toys. Other industries produce
cardboard cartons, clothing, rum, tobacco products, coconut products,
concrete blocks, and beer. Tourism has developed rapidly since 1970; in
1987 a complex for cruise ships was opened near Castries.
The chief exports are bananas, cardboard cartons, clothing, coconut
products, and electronic goods. Almost three-fourths of Saint Lucia’s
exports are to the United Kingdom and most of the rest to other
Caribbean islands and to the United States. Imports include food, fuels,
and manufactured goods.
There is an international airport at Vieux Fort, at the southern tip
of the island, and a smaller airport at Vigie for domestic and regional
flights. International shipping lines operate from the ports at Castries
and Vieux Fort. In addition, there is an oil transshipment terminal near
Administration and social conditions
Saint Lucia is a constitutional monarchy with the British monarch as
head of state, represented by a governor-general. The bicameral
parliament consists of the House of Assembly elected by universal adult
suffrage and the Senate, with members appointed on the advice of the
prime minister, on the advice of the opposition leader in the House, and
by the governor-general. The prime minister, leader of the majority
party, heads the government.
Saint Lucia has retained its association with the Eastern Caribbean
Supreme Court, consisting of a court of appeal and a high court.
Primary education is free and compulsory, and there is a branch of
the University of the West Indies at Castries. There is also a technical
college and a teacher-training college. Many of the primary schools are
parochial, principally Roman Catholic.
Health and welfare
Several general hospitals and many health centres are distributed
throughout the island. There is also a private hospital operated by a
religious order at Vieux Fort.
Several newspapers are published on the island, and radio and
television broadcasts are widely received.
French and British territorial rivalry
The exact date of the European discovery of Saint Lucia is not
known, but it is thought to have been about 1500. The first attempts at
colonization were made by the English in 1605 and 1638, but they were
frustrated by sickness and the hostility of the native Caribs. A
successful settlement was achieved in 1650 by French from Martinique,
who made a treaty with the Caribs in 1660. In 1664 Thomas Warner, son of
the governor of Saint Kitts, regained the island, but it was restored to
France by the Peace of Breda in 1667. In 1674 it was claimed by the
crown of France and made a dependency of Martinique.
Another British settlement under a grant made in 1722 by George I to
the Duke of Montague was frustrated by France, which had granted the
island to Marshal d’Estrées in 1718, and the island was declared
neutral. In 1743 the French resumed possession, retaining the island
until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, in which the two countries
again agreed to regard Saint Lucia as neutral. In 1762 it was captured
by Admiral George Rodney and General Robert Monckton, only to be given
up once more by the Treaty of Paris (1763). In 1778 it again surrendered
to the British, who used its harbours as a naval base, but, by the Peace
of Versailles, Saint Lucia was once more restored to France. Between
1782 and 1803 the possession of Saint Lucia passed several times between
Britain and France, the British having to suppress a vigorous
revolutionary party, which was aided by insurgent slaves, before gaining
possession in 1803. Saint Lucia was finally ceded to Britain in 1814 by
the Treaty of Paris, after which it became a crown colony. During
1838–85, together with the other islands of the Windward group, it was
administered by the governor of Barbados.
French influence on the development of Saint Lucia is illustrated by
the dominance of the Roman Catholic church and the survival of a French
patois. In the years following 1763, French planters came from Saint
Vincent and Grenada and established cotton and sugar plantations. In
1834, when the slaves were emancipated, there were in Saint Lucia more
than 13,000 black slaves, 2,600 free blacks, and 2,300 whites.
Prosperity was impeded by the decline of the sugarcane industry.
Improvement came with the increase of banana and cacao cultivation and
the revival of sugarcane.
Representative government was obtained by the constitution of 1924,
which introduced an elective element into the legislative council; the
constitution of 1936 provided for an unofficial majority in the council.
In 1958 Saint Lucia joined the West Indies Federation, although its
colonial status remained unchanged. Under the 1960 constitution the post
of governor of the Windward Islands was abolished, and Saint Lucia
became an autonomous unit within the federation, also achieving a
greater degree of internal self-government. After the federation was
dissolved on May 31, 1962, the status question was eventually settled by
the West Indies Act of 1967, in which Saint Lucia assumed a status of
association with the United Kingdom on March 1, 1967.
Independence was finally achieved Feb. 22, 1979, with Saint Lucia
remaining a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth. In the
first elections following independence, the left-leaning Saint Lucia
Labour Party (SLP) defeated the more conservative United Workers’ Party
(UWP). The SLP governments favoured the socialist regimes of the
Caribbean, establishing relations with Cuba and joining the nonaligned
movement. They also helped form the Organization of East Caribbean
States in 1981.
The SLP’s attempts at a mixed economy proved unable to deal with the
staggering problems of the new country, especially after Hurricane Allen
wiped out the banana crop in 1980. Rivalry within the party led to the
resignation of two prime ministers in two years, and political
instability caused the tourist trade to drop to one-half of its
pre-independence level. In May 1982 the UWP was voted into power on a
platform of inviting foreign investment and decentralizing government
administration. The agricultural sector was gradually rebuilt after the
hurricane, and the end of a recession in the United States increased
tourism. The UWP retained power in elections held in 1987 and 1992.
David Lawrence Niddrie
Janet D. Momsen