|Antilles Info Tourisme|
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.
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.
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.
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 An independance movement, which was very active in the eighties seems to have been replaced by the will to work together for a secure social and economic future.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.