Grenada is an island country consisting of Grenada itself and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Major towns there include the capital, St. George’s, Grenville and Gouyave. The island is of volcanic origin with extremely rich soil. Grenada’s interior is very mountainous with Mount St. Catherine being the highest at 2,760 feet (840 meters). Several small rivers with beautiful waterfalls flow into the sea from these mountains. Grenada is also known as the “Island of Spice” because of the production of nutmeg and mace crops, of which it is one of the world’s largest exporters. Its size is 133 square miles (344 square kilometers), with an estimated population of 110,000. As a Commonwealth realm, Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Grenada and Head of State. The Crown is represented by a Governor-General, currently Cécile La Grenade. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada dove.
Grenada was formed as an underwater volcano about two million years ago. Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by Caribs who had driven the more peaceful Arawaks from the island. Christopher Columbus sighted Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the new world. He named the island “Concepción.” The origin of the name “Grenada” is obscure, but it is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the name “Grenada”, or “la Grenade” in French, was in common use. Partly because of the Caribs, Grenada remained uncolonized for more than one hundred years after its discovery.
In June 1609, the first attempt at settlement by Europeans was made by an English expedition of 24 adventurers led by Mossis Goldfry, Hall, Lull, and Robincon, who arrived in the ships Diana, Penelope, and Endeavour. The settlement was attacked and destroyed by the indigenous islanders and many killed and tortured. The few survivors were evacuated when the ships returned on December 15, 1609.
On March 17, 1649, a French expedition of 203 men from Martinique, led by Jacques Dyel du Parquet who had been the Governor of Martinique on behalf of the Compagnie des Iles de l’Amerique (Company of the Isles of America) since 1637, landed at St. Georges Harbour and constructed a fortified settlement, which they named Fort Annunciation. A treaty was swiftly agreed between du Parquet and the indigenous Chief Kairouane to peacefully partition the island between the two communities. Du Parquet returned to Martinique leaving his cousin Jean Le Comte as Governor of Grenada. Conflict broke out between the French and the indigenous islanders in November 1649 and fighting lasted for five years until 1654, when the last opposition to the French on Grenada was crushed. Rather than surrender, Kairouane and his followers chose to throw themselves off a cliff, a fact celebrated in the poetry of Jan Carew. The island continued for some time after to suffer raids by war canoe parties from St. Vincent, whose inhabitants had aided the local Grenadian islanders in their struggle and continued to oppose the French.
On September 27, 1650, du Parquet bought Grenada, Martinique, and St. Lucia from the Compagnie des Iles de l’Amerique, which was dissolved, for the equivalent of £1160. In 1657, du Parquet sold Grenada to the Comte de Cerrillac for the equivalent of £1890. In 1664, King Louis XIV bought out the independent island owners and established the French West India Company. In 1674, the French West India Company was dissolved. Proprietary rule ended in Grenada, which became a French colony as a dependency of Martinique. In 1675, Dutch privateers captured Grenada, but a French man-of-war arrived unexpectedly and recaptured the island.
In 1700, Grenada had a population of 257 whites, 53 coloreds, and 525 slaves. There were three sugar estates, 52 indigo plantations, 64 horses, and 569 head of cattle. Between 1705 and 1710, the French built Fort Royal at St. George’s which is now known as Fort George. The collapse of the sugar estates and the introduction of cocoa and coffee in 1714 encouraged the development of smaller land holdings, and the island developed a land-owning yeoman farmer class. In 1738, the first hospital was constructed.
Grenada was captured by the British during the Seven Years’ War on March 4, 1762, by Commodore Swanton without a shot being fired. The island was formally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. In 1766, the island was rocked by a severe earthquake. In 1767, a slave uprising was put down. In 1771 and again in 1775, the town of St. George, which was constructed solely of wood, was burnt to the ground after which it was sensibly rebuilt using stone and brick. France recaptured Grenada between July 2 and 4, 1779, during the American War of Independence, after Comte d’Estaing stormed Hospital Hill. A British relief force was defeated in the naval Battle of Grenada on July 6, 1779. However, the island was restored to Britain with the Treaty of Versailles four years later on September 3, 1783. In 1784, the first newspaper, the Grenada Chronicle, began publication.
Julien Fédon, a mixed race owner of the Belvedere estate in the St. John Parish, launched a rebellion against British rule on the night of March 2, 1795, with coordinated attacks on the towns of Grenville, La Baye and Gouyave. Fédon was clearly influenced by the ideas emerging from the French Revolution, especially the Convention’s abolition of slavery in 1794: he stated that he intended to make Grenada a “Black Republic just like Haiti”. Fédon and his troops controlled all of Grenada except the parish of St George’s, the seat of government, between March 1795 and June 1796. During those insurgent months, 14,000 of Grenada’s 28,000 slaves joined the revolutionary forces in order to write their own emancipation and transform themselves into “citizens”; some 7,000 of these self-liberated slaves would perish in the name of freedom. The British defeated Fédon’s forces in late 1796, but they never caught Fédon himself, and his fate is unknown.
In 1833, Grenada became part of the British Windward Islands Administration and remained so until 1958. Slavery was abolished in 1834. Nutmeg was introduced in 1843, when a merchant ship called in on its way to England from the East Indies. In 1857, the first East Indian immigrants arrived.
The earliest recorded postmark of the British administration of Grenada dates from 1764. Like the other Windward Islands, Grenada was under control of the British GPO in London In addition to a packet agency at St. George’s, there was a further agency at Carriacou in the Grenadines, which opened on September 15, 1847, and operated for just a few years. British stamps were supplied to the St. George’s office starting in April 1858, postmarked with obliterator A15 of St. Georges until the colony assumed responsibility for the postal service on May 1, 1860. The first stamps of Grenada were issued on June 3, 1861, in the values of 1 penny (green) and 6 pence (rose) portraying a portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780–1860).
In 1871, Grenada was connected to the telegraph. The first secondary school was built in 1872. On December 3, 1877, the pure Crown colony model replaced Grenada’s old representative system of government. On December 3, 1882, the largest wooden jetty ever built in Grenada was opened in Gouyave. In 1885, after Barbados left the British Windward Islands, the capital of the colonial confederation was moved from Bridgetown to St. George on Grenada. From 1889-1894 the 340 foot Sendall Tunnel was built for horse carriages.
The 1901 census showed that the population of the colony was 63,438. In 1917, Theophilus A. Marryshow founded the Representative Government Association (RGA) to agitate for a new and participative constitutional dispensation for the Grenadian people. Partly as a result of Marryshow’s lobbying the Wood Commission of 1921-1922 concluded that Grenada was ready for constitutional reform in the form of a ‘modified’ Crown Colony government. This modification granted Grenadians from 1925 the right to elect 5 of the 15 members of the Legislative Council, on a restricted property franchise enabling the wealthiest 4% of Grenadian adults to vote. In 1928, electricity was installed in St. George’s. In 1943, Pearls Airport was opened. On August 5, 1944, the Island Queen schooner disappeared with the loss of all 56 passengers and 11 crew.
In 1950, Grenada had its constitution amended to increase the number of elected seats on the Legislative Council from 5 to 8, to be elected by full adult franchise at the 1951 election. In 1950, Eric Gairy founded the Grenada United Labour Party, initially as a trades union, which led the 1951 general strike for better working conditions. This sparked great unrest — so many buildings were set ablaze that the disturbances became known as the ‘red sky’ days — and the British authorities had to call in military reinforcements to help regain control of the situation. On October 10, 1951, Grenada held its first general elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage. United Labour won 6 of the 8 elected seats on the Legislative Council in both the 1951 and 1954 elections. However the Legislative Council had few powers at this time, with government remaining fully in the hands of the colonial authorities.
On September 22, 1955, Hurricane Janet hit Grenada, killing 500 people and destroying 75% of the nutmeg trees. A new political party, the Grenada National Party led by Herbert Blaize, contested the 1957 general election and with the cooperation of elected independent members took control of the Legislative Council from the Grenada United Labour Party. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration was dissolved, and Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies.
In 1960, another constitutional evolution established the post of Chief Minister, making the leader of the majority party in the Legislative Council, which at that time was Herbert Blaize, effective head of government. In March 1961, the Grenada United Labour Party won the general election and George E.D. Clyne became chief minister until Eric Gairy was elected in a by-election and took the role in August 1961. Also in 1961, the cruise liner MV Bianca C sank off Point Salines, although thankfully there was only a single fatality.
In April 1962, Grenada’s Administrator, the Queens representative on the island, James Lloyd suspended the constitution, dissolved the Legislative Council, and removed Eric Gairy as Chief Minister, following allegations concerning the Gairy’s financial impropriety. At the 1962 general election, the Grenada National Party won a majority and Herbert Blaize became Chief Minister for the second time.
After the Federation of the West Indies collapsed in 1962, the British government tried to form a small federation out of its remaining dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean. Following the failure of this second effort, the British and the islanders developed the concept of “associated statehood”. Under the Associated Statehood Act on March 3, 1967, Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs. Herbert Blaize was the first Premier of the Associated State of Grenada from March to August 1967. Eric Gairy served as Premier from August 1967 until February 1974, as the Grenada United Labour Party won majorities in both the 1967 and 1972 general elections.
On February 7 1974, Grenada became a fully independent state. Grenada continued to practice a modified Westminster parliamentary system based on the British model with a governor general appointed by and representing the British monarch (head of state) and a prime minister who is both leader of the majority party and the head of government. Eric Gairy was independent Grenada’s first prime minister serving from 1974 until his overthrow in 1979. Gairy won re-election in Grenada’s first general election as an independent state in 1976; however, the opposition New Jewel Movement refused to recognize the result, claiming the poll was fraudulent, and so began working towards the overthrow of the Gairy regime by revolutionary means. In 1976, St. George’s University was established.
On March 13, 1979, the New Jewel Movement launched an armed revolution which removed Gairy, suspended the constitution, and established a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop who declared himself prime minister. His Marxist-Leninist government established close ties with Cuba, Nicaragua, and other communist bloc countries. All political parties except for the New Jewel Movement were banned and no elections were held during the four years of PRG rule.
On October 14, 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the house arrest of Bishop at the order of his Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard who became Head of Government. This coup resulted in demonstrations in various parts of the island which eventually led to Bishop being freed from arrest briefly, before being recaptured by the army and executed along with seven others, including members of the cabinet on October 19, 1983. On October 19, the military under Hudson Austin took power in a second coup and formed a military government to run the country. A four-day total curfew was declared under which any civilian outside their home was subject to summary execution.
A joint United States and Caribbean force invaded Grenada on October 25, 1983, in an action called Operation Urgent Fury, and swiftly defeated the Grenadan forces and their Cuban allies. During the fighting, 45 Grenadians, 25 Cubans, and 19 Americans were killed. This action was taken in response to an appeal obtained from the governor general and to a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, without consulting the island’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, Commonwealth institutions or other usual diplomatic channels (as had been done in Anguilla). Furthermore, United States government military strategists feared that Soviet use of the island would enable the Soviet Union to project tactical power over the entire Caribbean region. U.S. citizens were evacuated, and constitutional government was resumed.
Seventeen members of the PRG and the PRA were convicted by a court. Fourteen were sentenced to death for actions related to the overthrow of the Bishop government and the murder of several people including Maurice Bishop. The sentences were eventually commuted to life imprisonment after an international campaign. Another three were sentenced to forty five years in prison. These seventeen have become known as the Grenada 17, and are the subject of an ongoing international campaign for their release. In October 2003, Amnesty International issued a report which stated that their trial had been a miscarriage of justice. The seventeen have protested their sentences consistently since 1983. The United States gave $48.4 million in economic assistance to Grenada in 1984.
When US troops withdrew from Grenada in December 1983, Nicholas Braithwaite was appointed Prime Minister of an interim administration by the Governor General Sir Paul Scoon until elections could be organized.
On October 28, 1984, the new Point Salines International Airport was opened, which enabled Grenada to receive large commercial jets for the first time. In 2009, the airport was renamed Maurice Bishop International Airport in tribute to the former Prime Minister.
The first democratic elections since 1976 were held in December 1984 and were won by the Grenada National Party under Herbert Blaize who won 14 out of 15 seats in elections and served as Prime Minister until his death in December 1989. The NNP continued in power until 1989 but with a reduced majority. Five NNP parliamentary members, including two cabinet ministers, left the party in 1986–87 and formed the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which became the official opposition. In August 1989, Prime Minister Blaize broke with the GNP to form another new party, The National Party (TNP), from the ranks of the NNP. This split in the NNP resulted in the formation of a minority government until constitutionally scheduled elections in March 1990. Prime Minister Blaize died in December 1989 and was succeeded as prime minister by Ben Jones until after the 1990 elections.
The National Democratic Congress emerged from the 1990 elections as the strongest party, winning 7 of the fifteen available seats. Nicholas Brathwaite added 2 TNP members and 1 member of the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) to create a 10-seat majority coalition. The governor general appointed him to be prime minister for a second time. Braithwaite resigned in February 1995 and was succeeded as Prime Minister by George Brizan who served until the June 1995 election.
In parliamentary elections on June 20, 1995, the NNP won 8 of the 15 seats and formed a government headed by Keith Mitchell. The NNP maintained and affirmed its hold on power when it took all 15 parliamentary seats in the January 1999 elections. Mitchell went on to win the 2003 elections with a reduced majority of 8 of the 15 seats and served as Prime Minister for a record 13 years until his defeat in 2008. The 2008 election was won by the National Democratic Congress under Tillman Thomas with 11 of the 15 seats.
On September 7, 2004, Grenada was hit directly by category four Hurricane Ivan. The hurricane destroyed about 85% of the structures on the island, including the prison and the prime minister’s residence, killed thirty-nine people, and destroyed most of the nutmeg crop, Grenada’s economic mainstay. Grenada’s economy was set back several years by Hurricane Ivan’s impact. Hurricane Emily ravaged the island’s north end in June 2005.
Scott #2 is the 6 pence rose stamp issued by Grenada on June 3, 1861. Engraved by C. Jeens and printed by Perkins, Bacon & Company of London on unwatermarked wove paper, the 6 pence rose stamp had rough perforations measuring 14 to 16. The head came from a painting by Alfred Edward Chalon, drawn for the first public appearance of Victoria as Queen on the occasion of her speech at the House of Lords where she prorogued the Parliament of the United Kingdom in July 1837. Chalon’s work was intended as a gift from Victoria to her mother. In the portrait, she is wearing the George IV State Diadem, created in 1820, and the State Robes, a dress and a long royal mantle. Her body is half-turned to the right side, on top of a flight of stairs. While her head is turned to the right, her left hand holds the plinth of a column on which there is a sculpted lion. At that time, this portrait was also known as the “Coronation portrait” because an engraving by Samuel Cousins was distributed to the public on June 28, 1838.
On this first stamp issue of Granada, the effigy is reproduced inside an oval that is large enough to see the Queen’s necklace. Stamps utilizing the Chalon portrait were released in the Province of Canada in 1851, Nova Scotia in 1853, Tasmania and New Zealand in 1855, The Bahamas and Natal in 1859, Grenada, New Brunswick and Queensland in 1860, and in 1870 in Prince Edward Island. On the New Zealand stamps, the circle has a larger diameter so that the upper part of the State Robes are also visible. Because these are some of the world’s first stamps or the very first stamps to bear these colonies’ names, the Chalon series are objects of many studies and collections.