From 1759 through 1763, as a part of the Seven Years’ War, the British took control of the island and main city Pointe-à-Pitre was established during these years. Proof of the island’s importance came in 1763 when the Treaty of Paris showed a trade of French territory in Canada to Britain in return for control of Guadeloupe.
The French Revolution also caused political turmoil, and control of Guadeloupe changed hands several times including 1789 and 1792. Slavery was abolished during this tumultuous time and within the year Britain had again occupied the island. Guadeloupe experienced the effects of the Reign of Terror from 1794 to 1798.
Meanwhile Louis Delgrès(*), a mulatto officer, led an uprising in 1802. He and 300 rebels chose to die rather than submit to the French army. Napoleon reinstated slavery when the French retook the island.
The British again held the island for three years beginning in 1810. It was ceded to Sweden in 1813 after the Napoleonic Wars. However, the Treaty of Paris in 1814 left the island to France again, though the British and Swedish did not fully acknowledge the secession. French control of the island was recognized in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815.
Like many Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe struggled with the end of slavery. In 1848, slavery was abolished completely. In place of the slaves, indentured servants were imported from India. The first indentured servants arrived in 1854.
A worldwide sugar slump began in 1870, hurting Guadeloupe’s economy. Sugar was bolstered during the first World War. Guadeloupe was of little international concern between this time. Just after the war, in 1923, it exported its first bananas.
Though Guadeloupe has been relatively peaceful, political changes have not always been easy. A compulsory work program was instituted by the Vichy government under Governor Sorin between 1940 and 1943.
In 1946, after another change of political power, Guadeloupe became an overseas Department of France. Other French Caribbean islands were added to this Department and in 1995 Guadeloupe became an observer in the Association of Caribbean States.
Louis Delgrès was a mulatto leader of the movement in Guadeloupe resisting reoccupation (and thus the reinstitution of slavery) by Napoleonic France. An experienced military officer who had long experience fighting Great Britain in the many wars that country had with Revolutionary France, Delgrès took over the resistance movement from Magloire Pélage after it became evident that Pélage was loyal to Napoleon. Delgrès believed that the “tyrant” Napoleon had betrayed both the ideals of the Republic and the interests of France’s colored citizens, and intended to fight to the death.
After a spirited but hopeless resistance, Delgrès and his followers found themselves trapped on the Matouba Volcano. There, Delgrès and most of his followers chose to commit suicide by detonating their own gunpowder stores. This act, though it effectively ended Guadeloupe’s native resistance to French authority, had powerful symbolic value and continues to be heralded as an example of exceptional heroism in Guadeloupe, France, and elsewhere.