History in a Capsule
|An island once considered richer than all of Canada|
When Columbus discovered Martinique, its only inhabitants were the Caribs, who by this time had killed off the rival Arawaks.
Called "Madinina," or "island of flowers" by the Caribs, Columbus renamed the island "Martinica" in honor of St. Martin.
He said it was "the best, richest, sweetest country in the whole world."
Because of constant battles with the Caribs, Spain gave Martinique up in favor of richer pickings elsewhere. The French planters and accompanying African slaves arrived in 1635.
The Caribs wanted nothing to do with any settlers, and fought bitterly until 1660, when it was agreed by treaty the Caribs would live only on the Atlantic side. The treaty didn't mean much, and soon all the Indians were annihilated.
The British took Martinique in 1762, but traded it back to France in exchange for Tobago, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, Senegal and a sizable chunk of property called Canada; because of its sugar plantations, Martinique was far richer than the other territories combined.
The 1789 French revolution's message of "liberty, equality and fraternity," was heard in Martinique, but disregarded as applying to the slaves.
Anxious plantation owners, not wanting to risk the same slave revolts occurring elsewhere, asked the British to return and keep the peace, which they did from 1794-1802.
England and France stopped fighting over the island in 1815 when it was returned to France. The French abolished slavery in 1848.