Presumably visited by Columbus in 1498, Saint Vincent remained uncolonized by Europeans until a British settlement was made in 1762. The French captured it in 1779 but it was restored to Britain in 1783. Attempts at overwhelming the native Caribs and black Caribs (or Garifuna, persons of mixed Carib and African descent) failed for many years, but the British deported most of them in 1797. Portuguese and Asian Indian laborers were introduced there in the 19th cent. after the emancipation of African slaves. Saint Vincent was part of the British colony of the Windward Islands (1880–1958) and of the West Indies Federation (1958–62). In 1979 it gained full independence. The islands were governed by the centrist New Democratic party under prime ministers James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace from 1984 to 2001, when the center-left United Labor party (ULP), led by Ralph Gonsalves, won control of parliament in the March elections. Gonsalves and the ULP were returned to office in Dec., 2005, and, by a narrow margin, in Dec., 2010. In Dec., 2009, voters rejected a new constitution that would have made the country a republic. Although the government and opposition agreed St. Vincent should cut its ties with the British monarch, they disagreed strongly over other aspects of the constitution.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.