Martinique History

Martinique History

Martinique is an island and a French overseas department (number 972) and an overseas region, with 350 km of coastline, located in the Caribbean north of Trinidad and Tobago. The island is located between Dominique Island and Saint Lucie Island. There are about 400,000 people living on the island.

The capital is Fort-de-France with over 91,000 residents.

According to, Martinique lives up to its name “Flower Island”, with its bougainvillea, hibiscus (Hawaiian flower), pitcher Indian flower tube, anthurium (flamingo flower) and giant fern. The mangrove with its many trees is also part of the landscape.

Mount Pelée is the highest point of the island, but with its 1397 meters it is not only worth a visit due to an overview of Saint-Pierre, but also to enjoy a piece of destructive history that has ravaged the island several times – most recently in 1929.


100-1450 – The island was inhabited by Arawak and Caribbean. In the year 130, it is believed that the first Arawak Indians arrived from South America. In 295 Mount Pelée erupted and this diminished the population. Around the year 400, the Arawak Indians returned again. In the year 600, the Caribbean and the annihilated Arawaks arrived and colonized the island over the next centuries.

1493 – Christopher Columbus maps the island without setting foot on it.

1502 – Columbus lands on June 15 in Martinique ; the Spaniards feared the Caribbean Indians on the island, and chose to focus on other more interesting parts of the New World.

1630 – Mount Pelée erupts for the first time.

1635 – Martinique has been a French colony since 1635, with the exception of brief periods when it was British. Cardinal Richelieu founds the “Compagnie des Isles d’Amérique” or ” Compagnie Saint-Christophe “.

1648 – The trading company goes bankrupt and the islands are put up for sale. Jacques Dyel, Belain d’Esnambuc’s nephew, buys them and continues to live in understanding with the Caribbean native Indians, (the Caribbean). He founded Fort Royal – today Fort-de-France – and introduced sugar cane on the island.

1660 – The slave trade brings in hundreds of prisoners, primarily from West Africa, to work for the various industries that produce coffee, indigo, and sugar cane.

1664 – France’s most powerful and important statesman, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, founds the West Indies Society. At this event, the islands accrue to the Kingdom of France.

1674 – On July 16, Dutch Admiral Michel de Ruyters’ fleet surrenders to Fort Royal, defending and winning the battle.

1694 – On January 29, Jean-Baptiste Labat arrives in Martinique, where he is given the parish of Macouba (Macumba), where he works for two years and adds many buildings, including the church. He founded the St. Jacques cane plantation in 1696, which quickly proved to be a pioneer in the sugar industry even many years later.

1762 – 1763 – English takeover of Martinique. Fort Royal capitulated on February 4, 1762 and was occupied, but only for nine months as the “Treaty of Paris” returned the islands to France, which in turn lost Canada.

1720 – French naval officer Gabriel de Clieu introduces coffee to the island.

1766/1767 – A hurricane and subsequent earthquake ravaged the island on August 13, killing between 600-1600 residents.

1774 – When a decree ends contractual bondage for whites, there were 18-19 million. coffee trees on the island.

1776 – One of the most devastating hurricanes ravages the island, killing 6,000 residents. 100 French and Dutch ships sank and killed 600.

1790 – A civil war breaks out.

1792 – Mount Pelée erupts again.

1813 – A hurricane ravages and kills 3,000 residents.

1815 – Napoleon abolishes the slave trade.

1819 – Introduction of the “l’octroi de mer” (sound duty), a levy received for each entry into the Caribbean Sea. It exists to this day.

1848 – On April 27, the government announces a series of decrees (obtained by Victor Schoelcher ), granting 72,000 slaves free status. Here, slavery will be officially abolished on 22 May.

1851 – First eruption of Mount Pelée. The first Indians and Chinese arrive in the country to make up for manpower shortages and to rebuild the northern part of the country, ravaged by uprisings.

1887 – The French painter Paul Gaugin lives on the island for several months from June to November near Saint-Pierre. Here he painted the tropical landscape and the native women.

1902 – Saint-Pierre and Le Prêcheur are destroyed on May 8 in a few minutes by a large volcanic eruption from Mount Pelée, and the city’s population of approx. 26-30,000 perished. The only two survivors in Saint-Pierre were the town’s shoemaker and a criminal sitting in the town’s prison. The capital was moved to Fort-de-France.

1905 – Over 5,000 residents leave the island to find work on the Panama Canal.

1913 – France adopts conscription in the colonies; the law called Martinique to send 1100 men a year to France for education. That same year, the island was engaged in massive exports of rum during the First World War.

1914-1918 – Large participation with 18,000 young people in the First World War. The Martinian youth who see two-thirds of their soldiers being wounded, captured, or killed in this war.

1916 – Sugar factories are transformed into rum distilleries, reviving the island’s economy.

1928-1930 – Bananas played a major role in the local economy.

1929-1932 – Mount Pelée comes to life. However, it is a less serious eruption than the one in 1902.

1951 – The first cyclone passes Martinique. This one is christened “The Dog”.

1974 – Martinique becomes a French region ( ROM ).

1999 – Banana from Martinique is at the center of a trade war between the United States and Europe.

2007 – Hurricane Dean knocks the island off on August 17, wiping out the $ 400 million banana harvest, killing 3 people. Subsequently, a dengue epidemic caused more than 1,000 residents to die in one month.

2009 – On February 16, 10,000 protesters march through the streets of the capital to protest expensive food prices.

On March 4, France agrees to raise the minimum wage by 200 euros a month, and union leaders agree to lift the 44-day strike.

Martinique History