Martinique before 1946

Martinique before 1946

Martinique, an island located in the Caribbean, has a rich and complex history. Before becoming an overseas department of France in 1946, the island experienced significant events that shaped its social, economic and political development. In this article, we will explore the history of Martinique before 1946, focusing on the key moments that marked this period.

The discovery of Martinique by Christopher Columbus

Martinique was discovered by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage in 1493. He named it "Martinica" in honor of Saint Martin, whose feast day fell on the day of his discovery. However, the island's first inhabitants were Native Americans, called the Arawaks, who made their living from fishing and agriculture.

The beginning of French colonization

French colonization of Martinique began in the 17th century, when the first French settlers settled on the island. They established sugar plantations and introduced slavery to work in the fields. France took control of the island in 1635 and made it part of its colonial empire.

The economy based on slavery

Martinique's economy was largely based on slavery. French colonists imported thousands of African slaves to work on sugar plantations. Slaves were treated cruelly and their living conditions were extremely difficult. Sugar from Martinique was exported to Europe, which contributed to the economic prosperity of the island.

Sugar cane plantations in Martinique

Sugar cane plantations were at the heart of Martinique's economy. French settlers developed advanced agricultural methods for growing and processing sugar cane, which led to increased production and profits. However, this required a large workforce, which justified slavery.

The Haitian Revolution and its impact on Martinique

The Haitian Revolution that broke out in 1791 in Haiti, then called Santo Domingo, had a significant impact on Martinique. Many French settlers and their slaves fled the neighboring island to escape the revolt. This led to an increase in the population of Martinique and also brought new political and social ideas.

The abolition of slavery in Martinique

The abolition of slavery took place in Martinique in 1848. This decision was taken following a series of slave revolts and abolitionist movements in France. The announcement of the abolition of slavery was welcomed with joy by the Afro-Martiniquais, who finally obtained their freedom after centuries of servitude.

The emancipation of Afro-Martiniquais

The emancipation of Afro-Martiniquais after the abolition of slavery opened up new opportunities for the island's black community. Many former slaves were able to acquire land and establish their own farms. However, emancipation did not end racial inequality and discrimination, which persisted for many years.

Political transformations before 1946

Before 1946, Martinique experienced several political transformations. During the French Revolution, the island was briefly occupied by the British in 1794, before being reclaimed by the French in 1802. In the 19th century, Martinique was governed by French-appointed governors, but the inhabitants of the island also had a certain degree of autonomy.

The consequences of the First World War

The First World War had significant economic and social consequences for Martinique. The island provided resources and soldiers to France during the conflict, leading to disruption in the local economy. Additionally, the arrival of foreign soldiers introduced new ideas and ways of life, which contributed to the modernization of Martinique society.

The economic crisis of the 1930s

The global economic crisis of the 1930s had a devastating impact on Martinique. The collapse of sugar prices led to a severe economic recession, which affected plantations and agricultural workers. Many residents were forced to leave the island in search of better economic opportunities.

The influence of the Second World War on Martinique

The Second World War also had a significant impact on Martinique. The island was occupied by the forces of Vichy, the French regime collaborating with the Nazis. However, in 1943 the island was liberated by American forces, who established a strategic naval base at Fort-de-France.

The beginnings of departmentalization

The beginnings of the departmentalization of Martinique began in the 1930s, when the first demands for the integration of the island as a French department emerged. However, it was not until 1946 that Martinique became an overseas department of France, which marked a new era of governance and development for the island.

In conclusion, Martinique before 1946 experienced a history marked by colonization, slavery, abolition, political transformations and economic upheavals. These events shaped the identity and development of the island, setting the stage for its current status as a French overseas department.