The two mountainous
islands of St Kitts and Nevis are of volcanic origin, with a highest
point of 1,156 metres in St Kitts; many beaches in St Kitts are of black
volcanic sand, while those in Nevis are silver.
Celebrated author Caryl Phillips, born in St Kitts in March 1958, won
the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2004 with his book, A Distant Shore.
Joined Commonwealth: 1983
Population: 54,000 (2013)
GDP: 1.6% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 73
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT minus 4hr
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)
Area: Total land area 261.6 sq km – St Kitts 168.4 sq km and Nevis 93.2
Capital city: Basseterre
Population density (per sq. km): 206
The two-island country of St Kitts and Nevis lies in the northern part
of the Leeward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern
Caribbean. The two islands are separated by a channel some 3 km in
Basseterre (capital, pop. 13,400 in 2010), St Paul’s (1,300), Sadlers
(1,000), Middle Island (900), Tabernacle (840), Mansion (830), Cayon
(810) and Sandy Point (790) on St Kitts; Charlestown (2,200) on Nevis.
There are good road networks on St Kitts and Nevis, 43 per cent paved. A
regular passenger ferry service operates between Basseterre and
Charlestown, taking 40 minutes. Basseterre has a deep-water port, with
berthing facilities for cruiseships and cargo vessels. There is a
smaller port at Sandy Point. Nevis has a 126- metres pier at
Charlestown. There is also a smaller port at Newcastle.
The Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport at Golden Rock, St
Kitts (3 km from Basseterre), receives direct flights from the USA and
Canada, while flights to other continents generally go via Antigua. The
Nevis airfield is at Newcastle.
St Kitts and Nevis 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
The country consists of two mountainous islands of volcanic origin in
the Eastern Caribbean. The larger island, St Kitts, is 37 km long, with
a central mountain range broken by ravines and a spacious fertile valley
running down to the capital Basseterre. The highest point is Mount
Liamuiga (1,156 metres). The beaches are mostly of black volcanic sand
except for the south-eastern peninsula, which has beaches of golden
sand. The almost circular island of Nevis to the south-east has beaches
of silver sand and coconut groves, and rises to a central peak (Mt
Nevis, 985 metres) which is usually capped with white clouds.
Tropical, cooled by the north-east trade winds. There is no distinct
rainy season. The heat is not searing; the highest recorded temperature
is 33°C. Hurricanes may occur between June and November.
The lower mountain slopes of St Kitts, particularly to the north, are
arable and used for growing sugar cane. Uncultivated lowland slopes are
covered in tropical woodland and exotic fruits. The higher slopes
provide short grass for pasturage. Tropical rainforest or dense bushy
cover occurs on the central range; unusually, the forested area is
increasing in size. Nevis, where much of the land is cultivated by
peasant farmers growing vegetables and coconuts, has a large coconut
forest on the west side. Forest covers 42 per cent of the total land
area of St Kitts and Nevis and there was no significant loss of forest
cover during 1990–2012.
Before the arrival of Europeans the only land-animal life was small
rodents and reptiles. The French introduced the green vervet monkey to
the islands, and mongooses and deer later followed. Birdlife includes
pelicans and frigate birds on the coast, hummingbirds in the forested
areas and quail and pigeons in the mountains.
The islands were originally settled from South America, and had
Amerindian populations at the time of the first European landings. St
Christopher (St Kitts) was sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second
voyage in 1493. It was colonised by the English under Sir Thomas Warner
in 1623 and during the following centuries sugar was grown on
plantations worked by enslaved Africans. Already in 1624, however,
another part of the island was colonised by the French (who also used
slaves on their estates) and the two powers fought over the island
during the 17th and 18th century until St Kitts was ceded to Britain by
the Treaty of Versailles (1783). Nevis was settled by the English in
1628. It, too, was subject to attack, from the French and Spanish, in
the 17th and 18th centuries, with less damage, however, to its economy.
From 1816 the islands were administered, along with Anguilla and the
British Virgin Islands, as a single colony and from 1871 as part of the
Leeward Islands Federation.
The two islands, together with Anguilla, assumed the status of
association with the UK in 1967, a situation which the Anguillans
rejected from the outset, with rebellion beginning in 1967. In 1971, the
UK and the other islands agreed that Anguilla would formally separate
and remain a UK dependency when the country achieved its independence.
The country, as the Federation of St Christopher and Nevis, had internal
self-government from 1976, and achieved independence on 19 September
1983, choosing to remain a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth
II as head of state.
The St Kitts–Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) held power from 1967 until
defeat in 1980 by a coalition of the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and
Nevis Reformation Party (NRP), and PAM’s Dr Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds
became Prime Minister. Simmonds was re-elected in 1984, 1989 and 1993,
when the PAM and SKNLP each won four seats, and the PAM formed a
governing alliance with the NRP, though the SKNLP had received 54 per
cent of the vote and NRP was itself losing support to the other main
Nevis party, the Concerned Citizens’ Movement (CCM).
In an early general election in 1995, after 15 years in opposition, the
SKNLP was elected to office with an overwhelming majority of seven seats
to the PAM’s one. The CCM retained its two seats in Nevis and the NRP
one. Labour Party leader Dr Denzil Douglas became Prime Minister.
In the elections in March 2000 the SKNLP won all eight St Kitts seats,
while in Nevis the CCM retained two and the NRP one.
On Nevis, discontent with the federation grew through the latter 1980s,
with increasing calls for separation, and strikes among sugar and other
agricultural workers. Elections in Nevis in 1992 then ousted the NRP,
replacing it with the CCM.
At the Nevis Island Assembly elections in February 1997, three seats
were won by the CCM and two by the NRP, CCM leader Vance Amory retaining
the premiership. In October 1997, the five members of the Nevis Assembly
voted to secede from the federation, triggering a referendum on Nevis
which was held in August 1998. Only 62 per cent of the voters of Nevis
backed secession, which fell short of the required two-thirds majority.
Prime Minister Denzil Douglas promised to work for greater autonomy for
In the September 2001 Nevis Island Assembly elections, the CCM won four
seats and the NRP one, and Amory was returned as Premier. An
unsuccessful attempt at triggering a referendum on Nevis was initiated
in June 2003.
St. Kitts & Nevis - A
Small Country With A Big History
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