History of Saint Kitts and Nevis

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > St Kitts and Nevis > Map Economy History

Like many other islands, Christopher Columbus "saw" St. Kitts in 1493, but it must have been memorable since he eventually gave it his own name. Eventually, it was inhabited by both French and English -- they settled in different parts of the island. The town of Old Road, west of Basseterre, was the English capital, while Basseterre was home to the French.

The island, along with Nevis and Montserrat, went back and forth between the two countries during the 17th and 18th centuries, which is why the influences of each can be seen on the island. The French controlled the island earlier, but the English received it during the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Later on, the French captured St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, but they went back to England in 1783 with the Treaty of Versailles.

The first settlers in St. Kitts came in 1623 with Sir Thomas Warner, who created the first English settlement in the Caribbean. His tomb today is widely visited at St. Thomas' Anglican Church located just west of Basseterre. The French and English continually battled it out over the years, though they banded together against the Carib Indians during a horrible massacre of the Indians at Bloody Point in 1626.

St. Kitts and Nevis were both agricultural giants growing indigo, ginger, tobacco, cotton and sugar cane in particular. Nevis was a booming commercial centre at one time as well as a fashionable spa. When the sugar industry died off because of the introduction of the sugar beet and the emancipation of slaves, Nevis supported itself basically on tourism as it does today. St. Kitts continued with sugar, which the government nationalised 20 years ago, and still runs the production of cane today.

St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla went together in 1967 to form the Associated State of the United Kingdom. Anguilla went off on its own right away to return to its Crown Colony status, but St. Kitts and Nevis went off on their own to become strange bedfellows in 1983. Since then, the debate has continued over who has the best deal in the partnership, making for a somewhat rocky marriage. Many Nevisians complain that St. Kitts has the best deal, which resulted in a referendum vote on secession for Nevis. In 1998, Nevisians came close to striking out on their own, 62 percent of them favouring secession. A two-thirds was needed, leaving the two islands continuing in their strained relationship and trying to sort out the constitutional disputes between them.

Both islands still have significant British influences. The Anglican church is still dominant, tea is still served in late afternoons, and life is still quite "proper" 

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Saint Kitts and Nevis > Map Economy History