The History of Grenada – From Discovery to Modern Day

by Ray Roman | Last updated on January 12, 2024

Grenada, known for its aromatic spices and captivating landscapes, has endured a tumultuous history that stretches from the days of exploration to its emergence as a jewel of Caribbean tourism.

Here we’ll explore Grenada’s rich history from Christopher Columbus to modern day.

The Early Encounters

Columbus and the Unexplored Promise

When Christopher Columbus came upon the shores of Grenada at Levera Beach in 1498, he was likely unaware of the island’s future significance as a spice producer, an irony considering his original mission to the New World sought such a discovery.

History of Grenada
History of Grenada

While it’s believed he never fully investigated the island, had he done so, he might have found that sailing west to Grenada was the pathway to the spices Europe so desperately craved.

Colonization and Conflict

The French Footprint

It wasn’t until 200 years after Columbus’s sighting that Europeans established a foothold on Grenada. In 1650, French settlers from Martinique negotiated with the Caribs, acquiring land with simple trade goods like knives, hatchets, and beads.

However, as the Caribs realized the permanence of the French settlement, conflicts ensued, culminating in a tragic stand at Morne des Sauteurs, where the remaining Caribs chose death over subjugation, a moment etched into the island’s history.

Anglo-French Rivalries and Military Fortifications

The French, despite their early dominance, were destined to share Grenada with the British, their longtime imperial rivals. The island became a physical chessboard marked by military forts, with Fort George and Fort Frederick standing as remnants of this era’s strife.

The Treaty of Versailles in 1783 saw British control establish, with Grenada becoming a British Crown Colony in 1877 and eventually moving towards self-governance as a British Associated State in 1967.

Struggle for Independence and Unrest

A Turbulent Path to Sovereignty

In the 1970s, Grenada simmered with the desire for independence, leading to strikes and a shutdown of the island. 1974 marked Grenada’s independence, but the island’s political stability was soon rocky under Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy’s unusual leadership.

By 1979, Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement promised a fresh direction but led to alignments with Cuba and rising tensions.

A Critical Moment in History

The world’s eyes turned to Grenada in October 1983 when a U.S.-led military intervention responded to an internal crisis that saw the assassination of Bishop. With the aid of neighboring Caribbean forces, they quelled the conflict, profoundly shaping Grenada’s trajectory.

Grenada Today: Preservation and Progress

Balancing Growth with Preservation

In the wake of the intervention, Grenada experienced infrastructural improvements and modernization, fueling economic and tourism growth.

Notably, emphasis on sustainable development has been key, with measures such as the ‘palm tree height’ law for hotels, ensuring Grenada’s lush landscapes and authentic charm remain unspoiled.

The tale of Grenada is one of discovery, strife, resilience, and ultimately triumph, as it secures its place as a treasured Caribbean destination where history is always just beneath the surface of its picturesque beauty.