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Guadeloupe from precolumbian times until today



The first inhabitants several hundred years before Christ were the Arawaks, an indian tribe, peaceful, but highly developed fishermen.
They became extinct around the 9th century by the men eating warriors of the Caraïbes (Karibs), who still inhabited the island Caloucaéra (Karukera in creole language) when the fleet of Christopher Columbus landed on November 3rd, 1493. He named the island Guadeloupe.

The Spanish showed little interest for the inhospital island and the first "volunteers" of the French - mostly farmers from the Normandie, the Bretagne or the Charente - have been settled in by the Compagnie des Isles d'Amérique not until 1635. Then the Karibs themselves got killed by epidemics, alcohol and guns. But the difficult living conditions affected the first settlers very much and so soon the trade with slaves from Africa as a workforce began.


At the beginning farming was not very profitable, so the Compagnie sold Guadeloupe to Charles Houël, who started the economic growth of the island with plantations of sugar, coffee and cocoa. Later on, the island was owned by the Compagnie des Indes, then by King Louis XIV.; the island survived attacks by the Dutch and occupation by the British. New plants like cotton and spices were introduced.

Pirate During the 18th century was the peak of the buccaneering and the Caribbean islands mostly lived of attacks and looting of foreign cargo vessels.

Influenced by the French Revolution, on February 4th, 1794, the Convention in Paris voted for the prohibition of slavery and sent Victor Hugues to Guadeloupe to control the implementation. A big number of estate owners who were loyal to the king and slavemasters got executed by the Guillotine.

1802 Napoléon Bonaparte reinstated slavery, but at the same time an opposition movement stood up. First under the commando of Louis Delgrès in 1802, later under the British, who forbid slavery in 1807, then at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. But only on April 27th, 1848, the French parliament voted for the Abolition Decreet, brought in by Viktor Schoelcher, the founder of the Société Abolitionniste. Victor Schoelcher
Victor Schoelcher

Since the relations between the former slaves and their former masters were extremely bad, they searched for other workers and found the coolies. These free and payed workers came from China and first of all from India. The fact that they had to pay the workers and the growing competition from the European sugar growers led to the economic downfall of many planters. In the second half of the 19th century, they lost their estates to big foreign companies.

But the economic crisis could not be stopped and there were severe social uproars and strikes. It was at this time, that Guadeloupe voted for her first socialist parlementarians: Légitimus and Achille-René Boisneuf. To get away from the economic dependance of sugar growing, a diversification of the production with plantations of bananas, pineapples and rice began after World War II - sugar and rum are still the main exports.

On March 19th, 1946, Guadeloupe becomes a French Overseas Department. Like all the other French Departments she is governed by a prefect. He is assisted by two secretary generals and two under-prefects, one for the district of Pointe-à-Pitre, the other one for the Northern Islands. The law is the same as in metropolitan France with some specific exemptions in regard to the wages for the civil servants, the school system and the social and health system. An independance movement, which was very active in the eighties seems to have been replaced by the will to work together for a secure social and economic future. Thus, the presidents of the regions Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guyana defined together in the "Déclaration de Basse-Terre", on December 1st, 1999, a new development program for the Antilles-Guyana region, and in June 2000, the law of orientation for the French Oversea's departments has been voted.

Saint Martin and Saint Barth voted for their independence from Guadeloupe's administration and got French oversea communities of their own since the referendum held on December 07, 2003.

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