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The Americas

Caribbean Islands

 

Modern St Kitts & Nevis (Lesser Antilles)
AD 1958 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1983-2022), British Colony (1958-1967), Associated State (1967-1983), & Independent Constitutional Monarchy (1983-On)

The two islands of St Kitts and Nevis form a combined state in the northern part of the Leeward Islands, within the Lesser Antilles chain. The islands sit to the south-east of Sint Eustatius (a possession of the Netherlands), to the west of Antigua & Barbuda, and to the north-west of Montserrat and Redonda. To the west and south-west is the large expanse of the Caribbean Sea. The area of the two islands amounts to just 269 square kilometres of land in the Americas.

As early as 2000 BC, the Sibonay group of Native Americans settled Nevis from Central America. They were followed by the Arawak, who reached both St Christopher and Nevis from around the Orinoco River in what is now Venezuela. Finally the Caribs reached the islands, also from South America. The Arawak and Caribs left evidence of settlements, pottery-making, and stone tools. The Caribs named the islands 'Liamuiga' (for St Christopher) and 'Oualie' (for Nevis).

Christopher Columbus was the first European to see St Christopher and Nevis, sailing there on behalf of the monarchy of Spain and arriving first in the Bahamas. Without stopping, he sailed by the islands in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World and the initial stages in forming the Spanish Colonies. He named St Christopher after his own patron saint.

The shortened name of 'St Kitts' has been used since the earliest English settlers arrived in 1623 and founded a colony, the first successful English colony in the West Indies. The name 'Nevis' comes from the Spanish 'las nieves', which refers to 'the snows' which Columbus spotted on top of Nevis Peak.

Two years later a French fleet arrived, crippled after battling against vessels of the Spanish empire. The English felt sorry for them and took them in. The French established a colony at a separate location, and the two exercised joint rule. After that the island of St Christopher alternated back and forth between sole French rule and joint English and French rule, making it the first French colony in the Caribbean.

The numerous European settlers alarmed the Caribs, who planned an attack. The colonists anticipated this and in the 'Kalinago Genocide' of 1626 massacred nearly all of the indigenous population. Those who survived were deported. Finally, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht made St Christopher an English colony. Nevis also became an English colony, in 1627, and remained so except for two brief periods of French occupation.

In 1824, Anguilla was joined to St Christopher and Nevis. It was not a happy union, with Anguilla at the far north of the Leeward Islands, separated from St Christopher and Nevis by St Martin, Saba, and Sint Eustatius. Anguilla once tried to declare independence and finally separated in 1980. By this time, the sugar industry, based on slavery, was flourishing. Even after the abolition of slavery in 1834 that industry continued to thrive.

St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla were united with several other islands in 1833, into the British colony of the Leeward Islands. They remained part of the Leeward Islands until that union was dissolved in 1960. In the meantime, when an attempted union of all the British West Indian Islands was created in 1958, St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla joined. The 'Federation of the West Indies' dissolved in 1962 though, returning the islands to the status of 'British Colony' in 1962-1967. Then St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla became an 'Associated State' with the United Kingdom, a status which was autonomous.

Following the separation of Anguilla, St Christopher and Nevis became independent on 19 September 1983 under the officially shortened name of St Kitts and Nevis. Nevis received a measure of self-government. Today the islands form an 'Independent Constitutional Monarchy' with a democratic parliamentary form of government on the British model. The head of state remains the monarch of the United Kingdom, represented locally by a governor-general who is appointed by the monarch. It is the governor-general who appoints the prime minister. The 'National Assembly' is the legislative-forming body, while the state is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Emigration is a characteristic of the islands, with the number of people who leave the islands exceeding the natural increase only by a little, leaving the population fairly stable. Sugarcane, which used to be the main industry of St Kitts and Nevis, no longer exists due to a decline in foreign demand. Instead, the main industry now is tourism. The growing of coconuts also contributes to the economy.

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 Washington Post (30 October 1997 and 11 August 1998), and from External Links: History of Saint Kitts and Nevis (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and The Government of St Kitts and Nevis, and Port Cities Bristol (Discovering Bristol), and Saint Kitts and Nevis (Rulers.org), and St Kitts and Nevis History, Language and Culture (World Travel Guide), and Royals, republicanism and reparations (The Guardian).)

1956 - 1966

Henry Anthony Camillo Howard

UK administrator, subject to the Leeward Islands.

1958

The British 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 which it needs. Instead, each constituent part appears to drive towards becoming a separate, independent nation.

1960

The British 'Federation of the Leeward Islands' collapses, but St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla remain part of the autonomous 'Federation of the West Indies' which is designed to foster the independence of the West Indian islands.

St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean
Areas of the islands of St Kitts and Nevis have been settled since as far back as 2000 BC, while today the two are joined together in statehood

1962

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

1966 - 1967

Fred Phillips Administrator

UK administrator.

1967

St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla become a collective 'Associated State' with the United Kingdom to prepare them for independence. Along with five other Leeward and Windward Islands, St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla gain internal self-government, while the UK controls foreign policy and defence from the UK Parliament.

1969

Anguilla declares independence from the United Kingdom and even forms a republic. The British government does not recognise the attempt and instead restores its control over the island.

1967 - 1969

Sir Fred Phillips

Governor.

1969 - 1975

Sir Milton Allen

Governor (acting between 1969-1972).

1975 - 1981

Sir Probyn Inniss

Governor.

1980

The island of Anguilla again divides itself away from St Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, although this time it is to become a separate, individual British colony.

Edward Heath, prime minister, 1970-1974
Edward Heath, Britain's Conservative prime minister between 1970-1974, made gaining membership in the European Economic Community a key objective for the United Kingdom, as the last lingering vestiges of empire were being left behind

1981 - 1995

Sir Clement Arrindell

Governor-general (and governor between 1981-1983).

1983

On 19 September 1983, St Christopher and Nevis islands become independent of the United Kingdom in the form of St Kitts & Nevis, a fully 'Independent Constitutional Monarchy' with a British-style parliamentary system and the monarch of the United Kingdom as head of state. The monarch is represented locally by a governor-general.

Nevis receives limited self-government of its own, with its own legislative body and premier, and the right to secede. Kennedy Simmonds of the 'People's Action Movement' becomes the first prime minister and remains in power until 1995.

1995

Denzil Douglas of the 'St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party' (SKNLP) becomes prime minister following a decisive victory over the 'People's Action Movement'. He remains in power for the next twenty years.

1996 - 2013

Sir Cuthbert Sebastian

Governor-general.

1998

A total of sixty-two percent of the voters on Nevis approve a referendum on independence from St Kitts. The vote falls short of the required two-thirds minimum which is required to permit secession.

Caribbean independence supporters in St Vincent in 2022
Protesters in St Vincent during the royal visit by the earl and countess of Wessex in 2022 showed that calls for independence were not going away

2005

The market for sugarcane collapses. The government, which had already nationalised the industry, ends it completely after the final harvest. Tourism becomes the main industry. Offshore financial and service businesses also help to prop up the economy.

2013 - 2015

Sir Edmund Lawrence

Governor-general.

2015 - 2023

Sir Samuel Weymouth Tapley Seaton

Governor-general.

2022

At least two painful exchanges take place between island governments in the Caribbean and the earl and countess of Wessex during their week-long tour of the British-linked Caribbean islands. Comments during a meeting on Antigua & Barbuda makes likely a future pursuit of full independence.

St Kitts & Nevis also reveals its plan to cut ties with the United Kingdom, with a growing sense of injustice around the former slave trade being used as a key point. Earlier in the year the same sentiment has already been echoed by the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, and Jamaica.

2023 - On

Marcella Liburd

First female governor-general.

 
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