Saint Lucia’s first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 CE. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawak’s’ well-developed pottery. Caribs gradually replaced Arawak’s during the period from 800 to 1000 CE.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain’s early exploration of the Caribbean. The British failed in their first attempts at colonization in the early 17th century. The island was first settled by the French, who signed a treaty with the local Caribs in 1660. Like the British and Dutch, the French began to develop the island for the cultivation of sugar cane on extensive plantations.
Caribbean conditions were hard, and many slaves died before they lived long enough to have children. The French (and later British) continued to import slaves until the latter nation abolished the trade, and then the legal institution. By that time, people of ethnic African descent greatly outnumbered those of ethnic European background.
Thereafter Saint Lucia was much contested by the two European powers until the British secured it in 1814. It was part of the British Windward Islands colony. It joined the West Indies Federation (1958–62) when the colony was dissolved. In 1967, Saint Lucia became one of the six members of the West Indies Associated States, with internal self-government. In 1979 it gained full independence.