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A brief history of Grenada

Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by indigenous Carib people, who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Columbus landed on Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the New World. Due in part to the Caribs, Grenada was not colonized for more than 100 years after its discovery. British efforts were unsuccessful, but in 1650 a French company started by Cardinal Richelieu purchased Grenada from the British and founded a small settlement. After a few “skirmishes” with the Caribs the French called in extra support and killed the entire indigenous population.

The island remained under French control until its capture by the British a century later, during the Seven Years’ War. Grenada was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. Although the French regained control in 1779, the island was restored to Great Britain in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles. Sugar was the first crop on the island, but in 1782 Sir Joseph Banks introduced nutmeg. The spice was very important to European traders and so too was Grenada. Slavery was outlawed in 1833.

In 1833 Grenada became part of the British Windward Islands Administration and remained a member unti11958, when the Administration was dissolved. Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies until its collapse in 1962. After the failure of two other attempts at forming federations, the British and the islands decided on associated statehood. With the Associated Statehood Act of 1967 six British dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean (Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, and St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla) were given complete autonomy over their internal affairs. Grenada became an associated state on March 3, 1967, but sought full independence, which was granted on February 7, 1974.

On March 13,1979, the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education, and Liberation (New Jewel) Movement ousted Sir Eric Gairy, the country’s first prime minister, in a nearly bloodless coup and established a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop, who became prime minister. In October 1983 a power struggle resulted in the execution of Bishop and several members of his cabinet by the People’s Revolutionary Army. Following a breakdown in civil order, a multilateral, joint U.S.–Caribbean force landed on Grenada on October 25 in response to an appeal from the governor general and a request for assistance from the organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

General elections were held in December 1984 and the New National Party (NNP) won the majority of seats in free elections. Grenada’s constitution was suspended in 1979, but was restored after the 1984 elections.

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