Martinique was inhabited by Arawak and Carib peoples at the time Christopher Columbus came across the island in 1493. The island was not colonised by Europeans until 1635 when Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc landed with a hundred French settlers from Saint Kitts. They cleared forests to grow sugar cane, thus increasing tensions with the native Caribs, and in 1660 those Caribs who had survived the fighting were forcibly removed from the island in what has become known as the Carib Expulsion.
In 1635 a small contingent of French colonizers arrived on the island. They settled on the northwestern portion of the island, later to become known as St. Pierre. As their numbers grew, the French made their way across the island defeating the fiercely resisting Caribs. About eight years after settling the island the most of the Caribs were brutally massacred in the area now known as Fort-de-France. In 1660 those Caribs who had survived the fighting were forcibly removed from the island in what has become known as the Carib Expulsion.
After their takeover of the island, the French began importing slaves and sugarcane.
In 1642, King Louis XIII authorised an action referred to as “La Traite des Noirs” that allowed for Blacks to be seized in Africa and forcibly brought to work as slaves in the French sugar plantations.
The French had also taken their hand to tobacco, but tobacco, being a weed, would grow anywhere and soon Virginia took over the tobacco industry. With all the productivity on the island, the French soon caught the eye of the British near the end of the 1700s. As a result of this interest a power struggle began for the island between the British and French that would last almost two centuries.
Fort-de-France would soon become a major port as Martinique was the first stop for ships following the trade winds from Europe.