North America

Dominica History


Columbus discovered Dominica in 1493; it happened on a sunday (latin dominica), and hence came the name dominica. The hard-to-reach and mountainous island, then populated by caribou, was only formally owned by the Spaniards. French pirates used Dominica as a base during the 17th century. During the 18th century, France and Britain disputed the sovereignty over the island. The dispute was settled in 1783, when Dominica became a British colony. The Caribs, who had actively participated in the conflict, were almost completely destroyed over the coming years. The majority of the population then consisted of black African slaves and mulattos. There are still residents who are descended from Caribbean Indians.

Between 1833 and 1940, Dominica and the Leeward Islands formed an administrative unit in the British Empire. During the years 1940–58, Dominica was part of a new administrative unit together with Windward Islands. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Dominica. Dominica became part of the Federation of the West Indies in 1958, and in 1967 the island gained internal autonomy within the framework of the West Indies Associated States. In 1978 Dominica became independent.

The first years of independence were literally stormy. Terrible storms devastated the island in 1979 and 1980. Most of the banana crops were destroyed, as was the settlement. Politically, Dominica was shaken by major scandals, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Patrick John (born 1938). The 1980, 1985 and 1990 elections were won by the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), led by Eugenia Charles, who focused on modernizing the island’s business based on foreign investment, tourism and new businesses such as the export of additional products alongside coconuts and bananas. Charles advocated US intervention in Grenada in 1983, and the United States has since offered Dominica military and financial support.

After 15 years in power, in the 1995 election, Eugenia Charles handed over the Prime Minister’s post to Edison James (born 1943), who represented Dominica United Worker’s Party(UWP). The new government’s goal was to pursue a more expansive economic policy, including through privatization of state-owned companies, expansion of the communications network, development of agriculture and growth of the tourism industry. However, severe tropical cyclones have hit banana production hard (most recently in 2017), and the country’s economy is still dependent on commodity production and foreign aid, mainly from the United States and France. UWP lost the election in 2000 and DLP and DFP formed joint government. Since 2005, only the UWP and the DLP have received some seats in Parliament with the latter as the victors in all elections. Roosevelt Skerrit (born 1972) has been Prime Minister since 2004.