Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It is also known as the “Helen of the West Indies” because the island switched between British and French control so often it was likened to the mythical Helen of Troy.
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse. It was first visited by Europeans in about the year 1500 and first colonized successfully by France who signed a treaty with the native Carib peoples in 1660. Great Britain then took control of the island from 1663-1667 before going to war with France over it fourteen times.
Nevis and Saint Kitts
Nevis and St. Kitts lie in the upper portion of the Lesser Antilles along the southern side. The two islands are within two miles of each other and have very similar economies.
St. Kitts, also known as St. Christopher, is a long, oval shaped island with several volcanic peaks rising from its base. The tallest is Mt. Misery, standing over 3,200 feet above sea level. St. Kitts is covered with fresh and saltwater lakes and plantations can be seen from the sea to the south.
Early European contact with St. Kitts included the Spanish under Christopher Columbus, and a French Jesuit settlement at Dieppe in 1538. The first permanent settlement was an English colony in 1623, followed by a French colony in 1625. The British and French briefly united to massacre the local Kalinago (preempting a Kalinago plan to massacre the Europeans), and then partitioned the island, with the English in the middle and the French on either end.
The island alternated repeatedly between English and French control over the century, as one power took the whole island, only to have it switch hands due to treaties or further military action. Parts of the island were heavily fortified, as exemplified by Fort Charles.
Nevis is circular, formed by the 3,200 foot Nevis Peak rising from the Caribbean. The sides of the mountain are covered with a lush vegetation that is regularly broken by sugar plantations.
Nevis was founded by the British in 1628 and St. Kitts by the French in 1627. St. Kitts was, in 1664, controlled by the English but boasted a French majority. In late 1665, St. Kitts was invaded by the French, who also blockaded Nevis for six months. The French blockade was to keep the English from using it as a base to retake St. Kitts. Eventually, the English retook it, but the attack came from nearby Antigua
The islands originally produced tobacco, but changed to sugar cane due to stiff competition from the colony of Virginia. The labour-intensive farming of sugar cane was the reason for the large-scale importation of African slaves.