Saint Lucia is an island country in the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean.The island was previously called Iyonola, the name given to the island by the native Arawaks, and later Hewanorra, the name given by the native Caribs, two separate Amerindian peoples. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 (238 square miles) and reported a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census.Soufrière was colonized by the French and was the original capital of the island. Its capital is Castries.The French were the first Europeans to settle on the island. They signed a treaty with the native Island Caribs in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667. In ensuing years, it was at war with France fourteen times, and the rule of the island changed frequently (it was ruled seven times each by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the “Helen of the West” after the Greek mythological character, Helen of Troy.Representative government came about in 1840 (universal suffrage was established in 1953). From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the West Indies Federation. On 22 February 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.Saint Lucia is a mixed jurisdiction,meaning that it has a legal system based in part on both the civil law and English common law. The Civil Code of St. Lucia of 1867 was based on the Quebec Civil Code of 1866, as supplemented by English common law-style legislation. It is also a member of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
The first proven inhabitants were the Arawaks, though there may have been other native peoples prior to this. The Arawak are believed to have come from northern South America sometime around AD 200–400, as there are numerous archaeological sites on the island where specimens of their well-developed pottery have been found. There is evidence to suggest that the Arawak called the island Iouanalao, meaning ‘Land of the Iguanas’, due to the island’s high number of iguanas.The more aggressive Caribs arrived around AD 800, and seized control from the Arawaks by killing their men and assimilating the women into their own society.They called the island Hewanarau, and later Hewanorra (Ioüanalao, or “there where iguanas are found”).Christopher Columbus may have sighted the island during his fourth voyage in 1502, since he made landfall on Martinique, yet he does not mention the island in his log. Juan de la Cosa noted the island on his map of 1500, calling it El Falcon, and another island to the south Las Agujas. A Spanish cédula from 1511 mentions the island within the Spanish domain, and a globe in the Vatican made in 1520, shows the island as Sancta Lucia.In the late 1550s, the French pirate François le Clerc (known as Jambe de Bois, due to his wooden leg) set up a camp on Pigeon Island, from where he attacked passing Spanish ships. In 1605, an English vessel called the Oliphe Blossome was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia, after initially being welcomed by the Carib chief Anthonie. By 26 September 1605 only 19 survived following continued attacks by the Carib chief Augraumart, so the settlers fled the island.
Compton’s initial term as Prime Minister lasted only a few months, as he was defeated by the left-leaning Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) under Allan Louisy in the 1979 Saint Lucian general election.The SLP sought to improve ties with socialist countries in the region such as Cuba, though the economy was severely affected by Hurricane Allen in 1980.Louisy was replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Cenac in 1981. The SLP government faced a series of strikes and Cenac agreed to stand down, with Michael Pilgrim of the Progressive Labour Party briefly serving as Acting Prime Minister until the 1982 Saint Lucian general election.This election was won by the UWP under John Compton, who proceeded to rule the country uninterrupted until 1996;he was succeeded by Vaughan Lewis, who ruled for just over a year before losing the 1997 Saint Lucian general election to the SLP under Kenny Anthony. During this era the UWP adopted a generally pro-Western, pro-business outlook, seeking to diversify the economy away from over-reliance on bananas and boosting the tourism sector.Compton was also a keen advocate of regional integration.Anthony remained in power until 2006 when the UWP, again led by Compton, won control of parliament. Compton pledged to boost the economy and tackle the rising crime rate.Police attempts to curb crime were criticised in 2015 when it emerged that several suspects had been unlawfully shot by police and the circumstances of their deaths covered up.In May 2007, after Compton suffered a series of small strokes,Finance and External Affairs Minister Stephenson King became acting prime minister and succeeded Compton as Prime Minister when the latter died in September 2007. In November 2011, Kenny Anthony was re-elected as prime minister for a third time.In the June 2016 election the United Worker’s Party (UWP) assumed power again, with Allen Chastanet becoming prime minister.