St. Kitts History
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St. Kitts History
Quick Time Capsule

According to legend, St. Kitts originally was named St. Christopher by another Christopher (Columbus) in honor of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Early British sailors referred to the island as St. Kitts and in 1988, St. Kitts became its official name.

St. Kitts, the first English settlement in the Eastern Caribbean (1623), was the base from which settlers journeyed to Antigua, Tortola, Montserrat and Nevis.

However, the British didn't gain full control of St. Kitts for almost another 150 years, in 1783, as a provision of the Treaty of Versailles. The French, who arrived soon after the British, also coveted the agriculturally rich island.

The French and British managed to live in peace for about 60 years in the 1600s, agreeing by treaty not to battle each other even if their mother countries were at war.

They even cooperated on mutually beneficial projects, such as wiping out the local Carib Indians. The Caribs had befriended the original 16 British colonists when they landed in 1623. But after the French also established a colony, the Caribs became upset with the growing number of foreigners.

The Caribs decided to rid their island of Europeans and called on Indians from adjacent islands to help. But the British and French learned of the plan and struck first, exterminating the St. Kitts Caribs and many of their allies. One of their most prominent legacies is the canyon of petroglyphs at Bloody Point.

Following the massacre of 2,000 Carib men at Bloody Point and exile of all survivors, St. Kitts was formally partitioned between the British  and French, with the French gaining the ends, Capisterre in the North and Basseterre in the south. The British received the center.

Both sides then proceeded to colonize neighboring islands from St. Kitts.

The British settled Nevis (1628), Antigua (1632), Montserrat(1632) and later Anguilla (1650) and Tortola (1672). The French colonized Martinique (1635), Guadeloupe archipelago (1635), St. Martin (1648), and St. Barts (1648) and St. Croix (1650).

St. Kitts was plundered by a Spanish raid in 1629, prompting all of the island’s residents to flee for as long as the Spanish were present. When they returned, understandably they began building fortifications along the Caribbean coast.

Colonists began producing tobacco but then switched to sugar cane after the Virginia colony began monopolizing the tobacco trade. Both crops required massive amounts of labor, which introduced the slave trade to St. Kitts.

As the island began to prosper, relations between the British and French deteriorated, occasionally resulting in armed conflict with the outnumbered British always receiving the worst of it.  

St. Kitts became the richest British colony in the Caribbean but began losing its wealth once slavery was abolished in 1834 as Brazil (from which sugar was first introduced into the Caribbean) Cuba and Brazil began taking over the sugar market.

In 2005, St. Kitts officially closed its sugar industry, though you will still see much of the island planted in waving fields of the green cane.

St. Kitts and Nevis became joined politically in the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, established as an independent nation within the British Commonwealth in September of 1983.

It seems well on the way to becoming an uneasy, jealous alliance. Each tiny island has its own separate travel website. Never a bad idea when two entities are joined together.

One of the reasons why Nevis has its own separate section on this site.

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