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The first Caribbean island to gain its independence was Haiti, in January 1804. After the two World Wars the colonial empires (like France, Spain and the UK) lost their earlier importance and power, eventually leading to Saint Lucia obtaining total independence from the UK on 22nd February 1979 .
But the road to independence for Saint Lucia has not been an easy one. Starting from the 16th century, the likes of France, Spain and the UK, frequently fought over who would control which island. Indeed, throughout the 17th and 18th century Saint Lucia was regularly contested between France and the UK, changing possession some 14 times.
In June 1803 Commodore Hood and Lieutenant-General Grinfield of the British forces set out from Barbados to fight the French ( once again) so that the British may win back Saint Lucia.
The Governor at the time, Brigadier General Jn. Xavier Nogues eventually surrendered and St Lucia was placed in the hands of the British in 1803, where it remained until France finally ceded Saint Lucia to Britain in the Treaty of Paris 1814, thus bringing to an end the long and bitter conflicts between France and the UK for Saint Lucia.
Although now in the hands of the British, culturally there was still a predominance of French customs and behaviour throughout Saint Lucia, particularly seen through the names of places on the island and the French based dialect Saint Lucian’s used called Patois.
As a British Crown Colony, in 1838 Saint Lucia was annexed to the Government of the British Windward Islands which then comprised of Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago. It remained in the Windward Islands group until the post of the Governor of the Windward Islands was abolished in 1959.
The subject of independence for Saint Lucia started to loom by the 1950’s and in 1958 Saint Lucia joined other British Colonies in a political organisation called the West Indies Federation, thus attempting to gain semi autonomous dependency from the UK. However, for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, new developments in their bauxite and oil industries led them to believe they were stable enough to stand alone and so they withdrew from the Federation. This coupled with petty rivalries eventually led to the Federation being dissolved in May 1962.
Whilst this was undoubtedly a setback for Saint Lucia’s journey to independence, the fact that it had been granted adult suffrage in 1951 and a new constitution in 1960, meant that it was still well on the road to independence.
On 1st March 1967 Saint Lucia became an associated state of the UK, which meant that it had self governing responsibilities for all internal affairs. External affairs and defence responsibilities remained the responsibility of the UK.
This arrangement ended on 22nd February 1979, the date on which Saint Lucia obtained full independence from the UK, and the first Governor General of “independent” Saint Lucia became Sir Allen Lewis, and the Hon. John G. Compton became the first Prime Minister of Saint Lucia.
Today, Saint Lucia proactively works with its Caribbean neighbours through the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).