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Guadeloupe

Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

Guadeloupe is an archipelago in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a total area of 1,704 km&sup2. It is an overseas département (département d'outre-mer, or DOM) of France. Like the other DOMs, Guadeloupe is also a région of France, and an integral part of the Republic.

Guadeloupe was populated from 300 BC by the Arawak Amerindians, who fished and developed agriculture on the island. It was next inhabited by the Caribs, who pushed out most of the Arawak in the 8th century, and who renamed the island "Karukera" or the "Island of beautiful waters".

During his second trip to America Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Guadeloupe on 14 November 1493. He called it Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Estremudura, after a Spanish monastery.

The French took possession of the island in 1635 and wiped out many of the Carib. It was annexed to France in 1674. Over the next century, the island was seized several times by the British. One indication of Guadeloupe's prosperity at this time is that in the Treaty of Paris (1763), France abandoned its territorial claims in Canada in return for British recognition of French control of Guadeloupe.

In an effort to take advantage of the chaos ensuing from the French Revolution, Britain attempted to seize Guadeloupe in 1794 and held it from April 21 to June 2. The French retook the island under the command of Victor Hugues, who succeeded in freeing the slaves and turn on the slave-owners who controlled the sugar plantations, but when American interests were threatened, Napoleon sent a force to suppress the rebels and reinstitute slavery. Louis Delgrès and a group of revolutionary soldiers killed themselves on the slopes of the Matouba volcano when it became obvious that the invading troops would take control of the island. The occupation force killed approximately 10,000 Guadeloupeans in the process of restoring "order" to the island.

On February 4, 1810 the British once again seized the island and held it until March 3, 1813, when it was ceded to Sweden as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars. Sweden already had a colony in the area, the nearby island of Saint-Barthélemy, but merely a year later Sweden left the island to France in the Treaty of Paris of 1814. An ensuing settlement between Sweden and the British gave rise to the Guadeloupe Fund. French control of Guadeloupe was finally acknowledged in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. Slavery was abolished on the island in 1848 at the initiative of Victor Schoelcher. Today the population of Guadeloupe is a blend of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Indians.

Guadeloupe became an overseas département of France on March 19, 1946. A local independence movement has been involved occasionally in acts of terror against the French government in order to achieve its aims.

 

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