Grenada is an archipelago comprising the island of Grenada – the most
southerly of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean – and some of
the Southern Grenadines.
Grenada is the world’s second largest producer of nutmeg after
Indonesia; a symbol of a clove of nutmeg is on the national flag.
Joined Commonwealth: 1974
Population: 106,000 (2013)
GDP: 1.8% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 79
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT minus 4hr
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)
Area: 344.5 sq km
Capital city: St George’s
Population density (per sq. km): 307
Grenada consists of the island of Grenada, the most southerly of the
Windwards in the Eastern Caribbean, and some of the southern Grenadine
islands, the largest of which is Carriacou (33 sq km). Its Caribbean
neighbours include St Vincent and the Grenadines (which includes the
more northern Grenadines) and Trinidad and Tobago.
St George’s (capital, pop. 5,200 in 2010), Gouyave (3,000), Grenville
(2,400), Victoria (2,300), St David’s and Sauteurs on Grenada; and
Hillsborough (800) on Carriacou.
There are 1,127 km of roads, 61 per cent paved. In the mountainous
terrain roads are often narrow and winding.
St George’s is a deep-water port. Anchorage and facilities for yachts
are offered at St George’s (at the Lagoon), Prickly Bay on the
south-east coast and Secret Harbour, south of St George’s. The port for
the Grenadine island of Carriacou is at Hillsborough and ferry services
run between Grenada and other islands.
Point Salines International Airport is 11 km south of St George’s in the
south-west of Grenada and there is a small airport at Lauriston on
Grenada is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of
States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community,
Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States,
Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade
Mountains, chiefly of volcanic origin, form a backbone stretching the 33
km length of the island and rise to 840 metres at Mount St Catherine.
The terrain slopes down to the coast on the east and south-east. The
island is watered by its many streams and springs, and a small lake,
Grand Etang, occupies an old crater at 530 metres.
The tropical climate is especially pleasant in the dry season (February
to May) when the trade winds prevail. The rainy season runs from June to
December, when hurricanes may occur and in some years – for example,
Hurricane Ivan in 2004 – cause extensive damage. The temperature and
rainfall vary with altitude, with much heavier rainfall in the
The natural vegetation is tropical rainforest (about 75 per cent of
surviving natural forest is state-owned) and brushwood. Species include
the gommier, bois canot and blue mahoe. There are also mangrove swamps
and stunted woods. Forest covers 50 per cent of the land area and there
was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2012.
Mainly smaller species, such as the mona monkey, agouti, armadillo and
mongoose. There is a large variety of birds; the Grenada dove and
hookbilled kite (an endangered species) are unique to the island.
Before the 14th century, Grenada was settled by Caribs, who displaced
the earlier population of Arawaks. Christopher Columbus visited the
island in 1498 and named it ‘Concepcion’ (later being named by the
Spaniards after their own city, Granada). European settlement was slow
to follow, due to the fierce resistance of the warlike Caribs, although
Britain and France in particular competed for control. A company of
London merchants tried and failed to form a settlement in 1605. The
French launched more concerted attacks until, by 1674, they had subdued
the Caribs and gained control of the island. By 1753, Grenada was a
flourishing French possession, with 100 sugar mills and 12,000 enslaved
Africans working the industry. The Caribs had been exterminated.
Britain took over from France in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris and
again (having meanwhile lost control) in 1783 under the Treaty of
Versailles. Britain introduced the cultivation of cacao, cotton and
nutmeg; by the time of the emancipation of slaves (1833), the slave
population had reached 24,000.
National political consciousness developed through the labour movement,
with the formation of the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union. In
the new environment, a union organiser, Eric Matthew Gairy, formed the
first political party, the pro-union, pro-independence Grenada United
Labour Party (GULP). In 1951, GULP won the elections and Gairy became
leader of the assembly. The Grenada National Party (GNP), led by Herbert
Blaize held power between 1957–61 and 1962–67.
Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies in 1958. When that was
dissolved in 1962, it evolved first into an associated state with full
internal self-government (1967), and then towards independence, the core
of the GULP platform.
Independence was achieved in 1974; Grenada became a constitutional
monarchy, with Gairy as Prime Minister, and Queen Elizabeth II as head
of state, represented by a Governor-General. Strikes during the
independence preparations, which almost prevented the transition, were
suppressed by, it was claimed, ‘Mongoose Gangs’ operating in the manner
of Haiti’s ‘Tonton- Macoutes’.
In 1979, while absent in the USA, Gairy was deposed in a coup by
opposition leader Maurice Bishop, who took the New Jewel Movement (NJM)
into power as the People’s Revolutionary Government. The new government
created state farms and industries, and forged links with the socialist
world. With Cuba’s assistance, it began construction of the modern
international airport at Point Salines.
In October 1983, after a military coup in which Bishop, two other
ministers, two union leaders and 13 bystanders were killed, Bishop’s
deputy, Bernard Coard, took control and set up a Revolutionary Military
Council. At the request of OECS, in late 1983, the USA then invaded
Grenada, supported by a token force of 300 police from Antigua and
Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and
the Grenadines. The Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, took control of an
interim administration, (almost fully) reinstated the 1974 constitution
and organised elections for a new government.
The New National Party (NNP), a four-party merger led by Herbert Blaize
and supported by the neighbouring islands, easily defeated Gairy’s GULP
at the December 1984 general election, and Blaize became Prime Minister.
In the elections in 1990 no single party gained an overall majority and
another merger, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), formed the
government under Nicholas Brathwaite.
The 1995 elections, contested by seven parties, were narrowly won by the
NNP, now led by Dr Keith Mitchell, who became Prime Minister. The NNP
gained eight seats, the NDC, now led by George Brizan, five and GULP,
Two no-confidence motions following the elections were unsuccessful.
However, in May 1997, five opposition parties, including the NDC, GULP
and the Democratic Labour Party formed an alliance to provide a common
front against the NNP, leaving the government with a majority of one.
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