From its sighting by Christopher Columbus in 1498 until French settlement began in 1650, the indigenous Caribs prevented European colonization on Grenada. A point of dispute between England and France, the island became permanently British in 1783. The British colonists imported African slaves and established sugar plantations. In 1967, Grenada became an associated state of Britain with full internal self-government. When complete independence was achieved in Feb., 1974, Grenada became a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
In 1979 a successful, bloodless coup established the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) under Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. This government's Marxist leanings and favorable stance toward Cuba and the Soviet Union strained relations with the United States and other nations in the region. In Oct., 1983, after Bishop and his associates were assassinated by more hard-line radicals within his own movement. The United States, supported by some other Caribbean nations, then invaded and occupied Grenada after Grenada's governor-general, Paul Scoon, requested the intervention. A general election held in Dec., 1984, reestablished democratic government, with Herbert Blaize as prime minister. In the following decade Grenada received aid from Western nations; tourism expanded, but in other respects the economy did not appear to improve. After elections in 1995, Keith Mitchell, leader of the New National party (NNP), became prime minister; the NNP won all the seats in 1999. The party and Mitchell narrowly retained power in the 2003 elections. Grenada was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in Sept., 2004. In the parliamentary elections of 2008, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) defeated the NNP, and NDC leader Tillman Thomas became prime minister. Five years later the NDC was swept from office and Mitchell returned to power as the NNP won all the seats.