West Indies Federation

West Indies Federation, former federation of 10 British West Indian territories formed in 1958. Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Barbados were the principal members, but the federation included most of the Leeward and Windward islands, then under British control. The seat of government was Port of Spain, Trinidad. Slated for independence in 1962, the federation did not survive its troubled infancy. Jamaica, the most populous and prosperous member, voted (1961) to leave the federation, fearing that it would have to shoulder the burdens of the economically underdeveloped members; Trinidad and Tobago followed suit, and the federation was dissolved in May, 1962.

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago became independent members of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1962, as did Barbados in 1966 and the Bahamas in 1973. In 1967 the West Indies Associated States were created, made up of Antigua (now Antigua and Barbuda), St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent (now St. Vincent and the Grenadines). Each of the states was voluntarily associated with Great Britain and fully self-governing in its internal affairs. Over the next two decades, all gained full independence, the last being St. Kitts and Nevis in 1983.

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), whose founding dates to 1981, is the successor in many ways to the West Indies Associated States. The OECS promotes cooperation and economic integration among its members, who also include Montserrat and the associate members Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. Its institutions include a regional central bank and supreme court. In 2009 a treaty to establish an economic union among OECS members was signed, and citizens of OECS independent nations were allowed full freedom of movement among those countries in 2011.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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