One of the Windward Islands, it was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, the first European colonizers. They signed a treaty with the native Carib people in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667; in ensuing years, it was at war with France 14 times and rule of the island changed frequently (it was seven times each ruled by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies".
|Castries, The capital of Saint Lucia|
Representative government came about in 1924 (with universal suffrage from 1953). From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. On February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations associated with the United Kingdom. The island nation celebrates this every year with a public holiday. It is also a member of la Francophonie.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. In 1643 a French expedition under the direction of Jacques du Parquet, the Governor of Martinique, established the first permanent European settlement on the island. The Governor De Rousselan signed a treaty with the local Carib people in 1660. Like the English and Dutch on other islands, the French began to develop the land for the cultivation of sugar cane as a commodity crop on large plantations. After the Seven Years' War between Great Britain and the France-Spanish coalition ended in French defeat, the Treaty of Paris (10 February 1763) confirmed an exchange of colonial territories by the signatories.
When the British acquired the island, planters were trying to use the Carib as labourers. The British imported enslaved Africans as workers. Many Carib had died because of lack of immunity to Eurasian diseases, such as smallpox and measles. Others died from overwork and maltreatment by the Europeans.
Caribbean conditions were harsh, and many African slaves died as well, requiring continued importation of new captives. The British continued to import slaves until they abolished the trade in 1808. By that time, people of ethnic African and (less so) Carib descent greatly outnumbered those of ethnic European background.
Saint Lucia continued to be contested by France and Great Britain until the British secured it in 1814, following its war with the United States. Saint Lucia was considered part of the British Windward Islands colony.
In the mid-twentieth century, it joined the West Indies Federation (1958–62) when the colony was dissolved. In 1967, Saint Lucia became one of the six members of the West Indies Associated States, with internal self-government. In 1979 it gained full independence under Sir John Compton. Compton, of the conservative United Workers party (UWP), served as prime minister from 1982 to 1996, after which he was succeeded by Vaughn Lewis.
Kenny Anthony of the Labour Party was prime minister from 1997 to 2006, when the UWP, again led by Compton, won control of parliament. In May 2007, after Compton suffered a series of ministrokes, Finance and External Affairs Minister Stephenson King became acting prime minister. He succeeded as prime minister after Compton died in September 2007. In November of 2011, the honorable Kenny Anthony was re-elected as prime minister.