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The Americas

Caribbean Islands

 

Modern Dominica (Lesser Antilles)
AD 1952 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1952-2022), British Colony (1952-1967), Associated State (1967-1978), & Commonwealth of Dominica (1978-On)

The island republic of Dominica is one of the Windward Islands in the Americas, which themselves are part of the Lesser Antilles chain. It sits at the northernmost end of the Windward Islands, with first the French island of Guadeloupe and then Antigua & Barbuda neighbouring it to the north, and with the islands of Martinique (also French-owned) and St Lucia to its south. To the east lies the North Atlantic Ocean and to the west the heart of the Caribbean Sea.

Dominica is one of the youngest Caribbean islands, albeit having been created some twenty-six million years ago. It is still evolving thanks to continuous geothermal volcanic activity. The Ortoroids were the first human inhabitants, arriving around 3100 BC from the Orinoco Valley in modern Venezuela and Columbia in South America. These people continued to occupy the island until about 400 BC.

Around eight hundred years later the Arawak group of Native Americans arrived, around AD 400, and by about AD 1400 the aggressive Caribs reached Dominica where they eliminated the Arawak. The Caribs of Dominica are more properly referred to as Kalinago. They named the island Waitukubuli, meaning 'tall is her body'.

During his second voyage to the West Indies in 1493 on behalf of what was on the verge of becoming a Spanish empire, Christopher Columbus made landfall on Dominica. He ignored the Kalinago name for the island and, having landed on a Sunday, called it Dominica, Spanish for 'Sunday'. The Kalinago fiercely resisted these new arrivals, making it impossible for anyone from the Spanish Colonies to settle the island. Other Europeans in the 1600s, the English and French, also battled each other for possession of the island, but they also had to fight the Kalinago.

Their numbers greatly reduced by disease and privation, almost all of the Kalinago finally abandoned Dominica and returned to South America. The remainder were eventually awarded 1,497 hectares of land (in 1903 by the British administrator, Hesketh Bell), officially recognising their chief and paying him a pension. Today this land is occupied by more than two thousand seven hundred Kalinago, the only island to contain a Kalinago population, and a rare success story for Caribbean island natives.

In 1642, a French missionary befriended the Kalinago of the southwestern area of Dominica and, subsequently, the French founded Rouseau, now the capital, on the site of a Kalinago village. The French were the first to bring African slaves to the island. By 1800, the enslaved population constituted the island's majority population.

The Hanoverian British began settling Dominica from 1761, beginning half a century of conflict with the French over control of the island. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave control of the island to Great Britain. French forces from Martinique captured Dominica in 1778, but only temporarily. The second Treaty of Paris, of 1783, which also confirmed the independence of the United States, awarded Dominica to Great Britain on a permanent basis. The French made further attempts to capture it but were always defeated.

The island was originally governed from the British colony of the Leeward Islands but, in 1771, Dominica was formed into a separate colony. It was assigned a lieutenant-governor between 1833-1940, although the title would vary and the post remained subordinate to the governor of the Leeward Islands. The year 1940 saw Dominica being assigned to the 'Federal Colony of the Windward Islands', which lasted until 1960. Britain also created a 'Federation of the West Indies' in 1958 which included all of the British West Indian islands, in the hope that the federation would become an independent state. The federation collapsed, though, in 1962 when Jamaica withdrew.

Dominica became an internally self-governing 'Associated State' with the United Kingdom in 1967. On 3 November 1978, it became independent as the 'Commonwealth of Dominica'. Today it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Internally, it operates as a parliamentary democracy with a presidential head of state who is elected by the country's parliament, the 'House of Assembly'. The head of government is the prime minister. Dominica's climate is humid and tropical, its economy primarily agricultural. Its population (as of 2006) amounts to a total of 69,625 people.

The full list of islands which make up the Lesser Antilles chain includes Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Redonda, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago.


Caribbean Islands

(Information by John De Cleene, with additional information from The Times Atlas of World History, Geoffrey Barraclough (Ed, Hammond Inc, 1979), and from External Links: Discover Dominica, and Dominica (Rulers.org), and Dominica (Zárate's Political Collections), and BBC Country Profiles, and Government of Dominica, and History of Dominica (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Roseau, Dominica (1650- ) (Black Past), and Remembering Hurricane Luis (Antigua Observer), and Tropical storm Erika (The Guardian), and Life amid the ruins left by Hurricane Maria (The Guardian).)

1952 - 1959

Henry Laurence Lindo

UK administrator, outside of Leeward Islands control.

1956 - 1960

The United Kingdom reorganises the 'Federal Colony of the Windward Islands' which has existed since 1871 and of which Dominica is a member, into the 'Territory of the Windward Islands'. That territory is dissolved in 1960, although the administrators of Dominica are subordinate to the governors of the Windward Islands.

1958

The United Kingdom authorities unite their West Indian islands into a 'Federation of the West Indies' in an attempt to form a unified independent nation. The federation does not receive the sustained support it needs. Instead, each constituent part appears to drive towards becoming a separate, independent nation.

Dominica in the Caribbean
This aerial view shows Secret Bay on the island republic of Dominica, an award-winning boutique resort with six sustainable luxury villas which are deeply immersed within the natural environment

1960 - 1964

Alec Lovelace

UK administrator.

1965 - 1967

Geoffrey Colin Guy

UK administrator.

1962

The 'Federation of the West Indies' collapses when Jamaica withdraws from it, so Dominica returns to the status of 'British Colony' until a fresh system can be brought into operation by the United Kingdom in 1967.

1967

Dominica becomes an 'Associated State' with the United Kingdom to prepare it for independence. The state is self-governing except for defence and foreign affairs.

1967

Geoffrey Colin Guy

Governor (previously UK administrator).

1967 - 1978

Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue

Governor.

1978

Dominica becomes a fully independent republic which is formally entitled the 'Commonwealth of Dominica'. Dominica remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, whose head is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

1978 - 1979

Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue

Interim president (and former governor).

1978 - 1979

Dominica's first prime minister, Patrick Roland John of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), gets himself into trouble for scheming to help to supply petroleum to South Africa in violation of an embargo against the latter country because of its apartheid policy. He is forced to resign and is replaced by Oliver Seraphine.

Our Lady of Fair Haven Cathedral in Dominica
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Fair Haven is located in Dominica's capital, Roseau, with construction having begun around 1800 and being completed in 1916 (External Link: Creative Commons Licence Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0))

1979 - 1980

Frederick E Degazon

President. Fled the country in 1979.

1979

A democratic socialist movement causes a constitutional crisis. Clashes with government security forces result in two dead and the call for the resignation of Prime Minister Patrick Roland John. Fred Degazon tries to leave the country but is not allowed to do so until 11 June, when he flies out to the United Kingdom.

1979 - 1980

Jenner Armour

Acting president. Stepped down in 1980.

1979 - 1980

On 15 June, Prime Minister John appoints the previous governor and interim president, Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue, to act on Degazon's behalf. A day later Cools-Lartigue resigns. On 21 June, parliament elects Jenner Armour as acting president for the remainder of Degazon's term. He remains in post until Degazon's period of office officially ends, after which he resigns, on February 1980.

Additionally, in 1979, Hurricane David destroys Dominica's main crop: bananas. It also sweeps away the topsoil, thereby ruining the island's agricultural capability. In the following year, 1980, Hurricane Allen inflicts further damage upon the Dominican economy.

Kalinago people of Dominica
The Kalinago Territory on Dominica is a reserve which is inhabited by the descendants of the island's pre-European inhabitants, with a group here being shown in traditional costume

Eugenia Charles of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) becomes the first woman prime minister in the Caribbean in the same year, remaining in office for fifteen years. Her more conservative approach makes gains toward recovery from the hurricanes and helps to reduce inflation. Several coup attempts fail when white supremacists attempt to topple her government.

1980 - 1983

Aurelius Marie

President.

1985

Former Prime Minister John, who lost his position in the scandal which involved apartheid-era South Africa, is tried and acquitted for sponsoring two coup attempts. Still, the Dominica defence force is disbanded.

1983 - 1993

Sir Clarence Augustus Seignoret

President.

1985

After having been acquitted earlier in the same year, former Prime Minister Patrick John is now convicted of sponsoring the coup attempts and is sentenced to twelve years in prison. Ultimately his sentence is ended after five years behind bars.

1993 - 1998

Crispin Sorhaindo

President.

1995

Hurricane Luis destroys nearly all of the island's banana plantations. The disaster also affects the popularity of Prime Minister Edison James of the Dominica United Workers Party (DUWP), but he remains in office until 2000.

The aftermath of Hurricane Luis on Antigua in 1995
Hurricane Luis left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean islands after it had passed on 5 September 1995, with three dead on Antigua and millions of dollars of damage done

1998 - 2003

Vernon Shaw

President.

1998

Dominica's government decides to make the island a principal sponsor of worldwide offshore financial services. The state-owned National Commercial Bank is authorised to engage in such activities.

2000

Roosevelt 'Rosie' Douglas of the Labour Party of Dominica (LPD) dies of a heart attack after only eight months in office. He is succeeded by Pierre Charles, the party's deputy leader and frequent deputy prime minister (the post is not permanent).

2003 - 2012

Nicholas Liverpool

President.

2004 - 2008

Prime Minister Pierre Charles dies as suddenly and unexpectedly as his predecessor, aged just forty-nine. He is succeeded by Roosevelt Skerrit, the education minister who, at the age of thirty-one, becomes the world's youngest head of government.

In 2008 Skerrit joins the 'Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas' which is being offered by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Skerrit also aligns his government with mainland China instead of Taiwan and receives a promise of a hundred million dollars in aid over a span of five years. To add to Dominica's economic woes, though, an earthquake strikes the north of the island in 2004.

Hugo Chavez
From 2009 Hugo Chavez had no limit to the term of his office as 'president' of Venezuela, and only terminal illness ended his 'reign' over the country

2007

Hurricane Dean wipes out ninety-nine percent of Dominica's banana crop, yet another economic calamity for the island. Vegetable crops and animal pens are also heavily damaged. This is only the most serious of a series of hurricanes to pass through the Caribbean in this season.

2008 - 2009

Chief Charles Williams of the Kalinago requests legislation which would require members of the tribe to marry only each other in order to prevent any more reduction in the tribe's numbers or identity. In the same period, Venezuela awards Dominica a sizeable budget of forty-nine million dollars in grants, and the supportive Prime Minister Skerrit and his Dominican Labour Party are re-elected to office.

2012 - 2013

Eliud Williams

President.

2013 - On

Charles Savarin

President.

2015

After lashing the island for more than five hours, Tropical Storm Erika kills at least twenty and leaves more than fifty missing. Heavy equipment is sent by the governments of Venezuela, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, and hundreds work to reopen the country's main airport so that extra help and supplies can be flown in. The storm sets back Dominica's economic progress by twenty years.

Hurricane Maria's aftermath on Dominica
The devastation caused to Dominica by 2017's Hurricane Maria is amply illustrated here, leaving thirty-one dead and thirty-seven missing, and destroying over ninety percent of the island's infrastructure

2017

Hurricane Maria, a category five storm, becomes the strongest hurricane to strike Dominica when it hits in September 2017. With almost every building damaged or reduced to rubble, no power and little water, survivors of the storm rely on shelters and a trickle of aid.

 
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