byname Isle of Spice
Island country, Lesser Antilles, Caribbean Sea.
Area: 133 sq mi (344 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 103,000.
Capital: St. George’s. Most Grenadans are of African or mixed (primarily
African-European) ancestry; many of the rest are of South Asian descent.
Language: English (official). Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman
Catholic; also Protestant); also Rastafarianism. Currency: East
Caribbean dollar. Grenada is the most southerly of the Lesser Antilles,
lying about 100 mi (160 km) north of Venezuela; its territory includes
the southern Grenadines. Volcanic in origin, it is dominated by a
thickly forested mountain ridge rising to 2,757 ft (840 m) at Mount St.
Catherine. The southern coast is indented with beaches and natural
harbours. The tropical maritime climate supports rich vegetation. Often
called the Isle of Spice, Grenada is known for its nutmeg, cinnamon, and
vanilla as well as for cocoa. It has a developing market economy
dependent on agricultural exports and tourism. The chief of state is the
British sovereign, represented by the governor-general; the head of
government is the prime minister. The warlike Carib Indians dominated
Grenada when Christopher Columbus sighted the island in 1498 and named
it Concepción; the Caribs ruled it for the next 150 years. In the early
1670s it became subject to the French crown and remained so until 1762,
when British forces captured it. In 1833 the island’s black slaves were
freed. Grenada was the headquarters of the government of the British
Windward Islands (1885–1958) and a member of the West Indies Federation
(1958–62). It became a self-governing state in association with Britain
in 1967 and gained its independence in 1974. In 1979 a left-wing
government took control in a bloodless coup. Relations with its
U.S.-oriented Latin American neighbours became strained as Grenada
leaned toward Cuba and the Soviet bloc. In order to counter this trend,
the U.S. invaded the island in 1983; democratic self-government was
reestablished in 1984. Grenada’s relations with Cuba, once suspended,
were restored in 1997.
Official name Grenada
Form of government constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses
(Senate ; House of Representatives )
Chief of state British Monarch represented by Governor-General
Head of government Prime Minister
Capital St. George’s
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)
Population estimate (2008) 108,000
Total area (sq mi) 133
Total area (sq km) 344
byname Isle of Spice
island country of the West Indies. It is the southernmost of the
Lesser Antilles, lying in the eastern Caribbean Sea about 100 miles (160
kilometres) north of the coast of Venezuela. Oval in shape, the island
is approximately 21 miles (34 kilometres) long and 12 miles wide. The
southern Grenadines—the largest of which is Carriacou, about 20 miles
north-northeast, with an area of 13 square miles—are a dependency.
The capital, St. George’s, on the southwest coast, is also the main
port, having a fine natural harbour as well as picturesque
pastel-coloured houses that rise up the hillsides from the waterfront.
The waterfront itself is known as the Carenage because island schooners
were once careened (beached for cleaning or repair) there. St. George’s
is the yachting and charter-boat centre of the eastern Caribbean.
In 1974 Grenada attained independence within the Commonwealth and
membership in the United Nations. It was the first of the six West
Indies Associated States to do so.
Physical and human geography
Grenada is volcanic in origin, with a ridge of mountains running
north and south—the steeper slopes to the west and a more gradual
incline to the east and southeast. The highest point is Mount St.
Catherine (2,757 feet [840 metres]) in the northern part of the
interior. The landscape is scenic, with fairly deep, steep-sided valleys
and about 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of forest.
Drainage and soils
Several short, swiftly flowing streams supply all towns and most
villages with piped clean water. A further source of water is Grand
Etang, a lake covering 36 acres in the crater of an extinct volcano at
an elevation of 1,740 feet. The fertile soils are chiefly volcanic, with
some limestone in the north.
The island has equable temperatures varying with altitude and
averaging 82° F (28° C). Rainfall is adequate, except in the Point
Salines area in the southwest; it varies from an average of 60 inches
(1,500 millimetres) in coastal districts to more than 150 inches in the
mountainous regions. The rainy season lasts from June to December.
November is the wettest month, but showers occur frequently during the
other months. Grenada lies south of the usual track of hurricanes, but
when they do occur, as in 1955, 1979, and 1980, they often cause
Plant and animal life
The island is verdant, with a year-round growing season and a wide
variety of tropical fruits, flowering shrubs, and ferns. There are also
forests of teak, mahogany, saman (known as the rain tree), and blue
mahoe (a strong-fibred tree) in the interior.
The animal life is varied and includes such wild animals as the mona
monkey (a small, long-tailed, West African species that was introduced
by slaves), the manicou (a species of opossum), the agouti (a
rabbit-sized rodent, which is brown or grizzled in colour), the iguana,
the mongoose, and a variety of turtles and land crabs.
Most of the population is black, having descended from African
slaves, and there is a large minority of mulattoes and other mixtures.
There are also small minorities of East Indians, descendants of
indentured labourers brought to replace the freed slaves; descendants of
the old French and British settlers; and more recent immigrants from
North America and Europe. Although English is the accepted language, a
form of patois is still spoken by older people in the villages. A
majority of the population is Roman Catholic; other Christian
denominations include Anglicans (more than a fifth of the population),
Methodists, and Seventh-day Adventists. Although Grenada is densely
populated, its population grew slowly during the 20th century.
Agriculture and tourism are the most important sectors of the
economy, although fishing and agriculturally based industries are
becoming more significant. Grenada relies on financial support from the
United Kingdom and other sources to bolster the economy.
Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
To a greater extent than in most West Indian islands, Grenada’s
arable land is divided into small holdings on which peasant proprietors
cultivate diversified crops. Because of these small holdings and the
generally hilly terrain, mechanical tilling is rare. The major
agricultural export crops—cocoa, bananas, nutmeg, and mace—in the past
were controlled by cooperative associations, but these associations have
begun to come under greater government control. Banana exports depend
upon preferential terms given by the United Kingdom and are affected by
the policies of the European Community. Exports of mace and lime juice
provide substantial earnings. Copra and, increasingly, other products
processed from the coconut are also exported, and a wide variety of
tropical fruits—mangoes, passion fruit, guavas, tamarind, and citrus
fruits—are grown. The government has encouraged increased production of
staple vegetables, such as peas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and
The island’s forests yield mostly teak and mahogany, and the
government has worked to upgrade fishing.
Industry and trade
Tourism, a major factor in the island’s economy, has been encouraged
by the government. Air transport facilities have been improved, and the
harbour is visited by numerous cruise ships. Other sources of employment
are such secondary industries as clothing manufacture, sugar milling,
brewing, rum distilling (a strong white rum being made for local
consumption), food canning, copra processing, cigarette manufacturing,
and soapmaking. There is a cotton ginnery on Carriacou.
The United Kingdom is Grenada’s principal trading partner. Exports go
largely to Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Germany, and The
Netherlands; most imports come from the United Kingdom, the United
States, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Bus service is available between the larger towns and villages. An
international airport at Point Salines was inaugurated in 1984. Pearls
Airport—providing service to nearby islands with connecting flights to
Venezuela—is located on the northeastern coast. An airport on Carriacou
also provides flights to nearby islands.
The harbour at St. George’s has berths for oceangoing vessels, as
well as a yacht basin and service facilities. Several shipping lines
maintain regular passenger and cargo services to North America, the
United Kingdom, Europe, and neighbouring West Indian islands.
Administration and social conditions
Grenada is governed as a constitutional monarchy, with the British
monarch represented by a governor-general as the nominal head of state.
Executive authority is vested in a prime minister, who is the head of
the majority party in the elected House of Representatives, the lower
house of the two-chamber legislature. The Senate is appointed by the
governor-general on the advice of the prime minister and the opposition
School attendance is not compulsory, although primary and secondary
education is free. Grenada has vocational and technical schools as well
as the St. George’s University School of Medicine and a branch of the
University of the West Indies.
Health and welfare
Grenada has several main health centres, as well as district medical
stations. Medical and dental treatment in government hospitals and
clinics is free. The government has launched a program to eradicate
malaria and mongoose-spread rabies.
The Grenada National Museum in St. George’s is dedicated to
archaeology and history and houses the Grenada Historical Society. Two
Grenadian artists, Elinus Cato and Canute Caliste, have achieved
international recognition for their primitive-style paintings. Several
weekly newspapers are published, and islandwide radio and television
broadcasting is available.
Grenada was sighted by Christopher Columbus on Aug. 15, 1498,
when he sailed past the island without landing and gave it the name of
Concepción. The origin of the name Grenada remains obscure. After its
discovery, Grenada was dominated for 150 years by the warlike Carib
Indians, who had earlier killed off the more peaceful Arawak. In 1609
British merchants attempted to form a settlement, but the Caribs forced
them to leave.
The French governor of Martinique, Jacques-Dyel du Parquet,
purchased Grenada from a French company in 1650 and established a
settlement at St. George’s. Grenada remained French until 1762, when it
capitulated to the British. It was formally ceded to Britain in 1763 by
the Treaty of Paris. In 1779 it was recaptured by the French, but it was
restored to Britain in 1783.
In the late 18th century the British imported large numbers of
slaves from Africa to work the sugar plantations. During 1795 and 1796,
when French policy favoured the abolition of slavery, a rebellion
against British rule occurred, led by a French planter and supported by
the French in Martinique. The rebels massacred a number of the British,
including the lieutenant governor, but the uprising was quelled. The
emancipation of the slaves finally took effect in 1833.
Grenada was headquarters of the British Windward Islands government
from 1885 until 1958, when Grenada joined the West Indies Federation.
The federation ended in 1962, after which Grenada attempted to federate
with the remaining territories in the Windward Islands, as well as with
Barbados and the Leeward Islands. On March 3, 1967, however, the island
became a self-governing state in association with the United Kingdom.
In the general election of August 1967, the Grenada United Labour
Party (GULP) defeated the Grenada National Party (GNP) and took office
under the premiership of Eric M. Gairy, a trade unionist. Grenada became
an independent nation on Feb. 7, 1974. The transition was marked by
violence, strikes, and controversy centring upon Gairy, who was named
prime minister. Opposition to Gairy’s rule continued to mount, and a
coalition called the New Jewel Movement (NJM), along with other
opposition parties, succeeded in reducing GULP’s majority in Parliament
in the 1976 election. On March 13, 1979, while Gairy was out of the
country, the NJM staged a bloodless coup, proclaimed a People’s
Revolutionary Government (PRG), and named their leader, Maurice Bishop,
as prime minister. The new government faced opposition from Western
nations because of its socialist principles, but it embarked on a
program to rebuild the economy, which had been left in disarray by
Gairy. The PRG administration was ended in October 1983 by a military
coup, during which Bishop was killed.
Less than a week later, on October 25, a U.S.-led invasion of the
island overthrew the coup leaders and returned power to the
governor-general, Sir Paul Scoon. In December Scoon appointed Nicholas
Braithwaite, a former Commonwealth official, to head a governing council
until an election could be held, and constitutional government was
restored. A peacekeeping force remained until 1985. The election, held
in December 1984, was won by the New National Party headed by Herbert A.
Blaize, who had led the government in the 1960s. The new government
sought to revive tourism, but Grenada’s continuing economic problems
throughout the late 1980s contributed to the government’s dwindling
popularity. Following an election in March 1990, Braithwaite, whose
National Democratic Congress fell one seat shy of a parliamentary
majority, was appointed prime minister by Scoon.
Eric V.B. Britter