History of Dominica

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The Arawaks were guided to Dominica, and other islands of the Caribbean, by the South Equatorial Current from the waters of the Orinoco River. These descendants of the early Tainos were overthrown by the Kalinago tribe of the Caribs.[citation needed].

The Caribs, who settled here in the 14th century, called the island Waitikubuli, which means 'tall is her body'. Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it - a Sunday ('Doménica' in Italian) - which fell on November 3, 1493.

Daunted by fierce resistance from the Caribs and discouraged by the absence of gold, the Spanish did not settle the island. Many of the remaining Carib people live in Dominica's Carib Territory, a 3,700-acre (15 km2) district on Dominica's east coast.


European Colony period

In 1635, France claimed Dominica. Shortly thereafter, French missionaries became the first European inhabitants of the island. Carib incursions continued, though, and soon after, the French and English signed a neutrality treaty in which both Dominica and St. Vincent should be abandoned by them and in possession of the Caribs. Dominica was officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; rival expeditions of English and French foresters were harvesting timber by the start of the 18th century.

Largely due to Dominica's position between Martinique and Guadeloupe, France eventually became predominant, and a French settlement was established and grew. In 1761 a British expedition against Dominica led by Lord Rollo was successful and the island was conquered along with several other Caribbean islands. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years' War, the island became a British possession. In 1778, during the American War of Independence, the French mounted a successful invasion with the active cooperation of the population, which was largely French. The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, returned the island to Britain. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure. The 1805 invasion burned much of Roseau to the ground.

In 1763, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only the white population. In 1831, reflecting a liberalization of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free nonwhites. Three Blacks were elected to the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery, in 1838 Dominica became the only British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature in the 19th century. Most Black legislators were small holders or merchants who held economic and social views diametrically opposed to the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule.

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