Guadeloupe was populated from 300 BC by the Arawak Amerindians,who fished and developed agriculture on the island. It was next inhabited by the Caribs, who pushed out most of the Arawak in the 8th century, and who renamed the island “Karukera” or the “Island of beautiful waters”.
During his second trip to America Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Guadeloupe on 14 November 1493. He called it Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Extremadura.
After successful settlement on the island of St Christophe (St Kitts), the French American Islands Company delegates Charles Lienard and Jean Duplessis, Lord of Ossonville to colonise one or any of the region’s islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique or Dominica. Due to Martinique’s inhospitable nature, the duo resolves to settle in Guadeloupe. The French took possession of the island in 1635 and wiped out many of the Carib amerindians. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1674.
Over the next century, the island was seized several times by the British. One indication of Guadeloupe’s prosperity at this time is that in the Treaty of Paris (1763), France, defeated in war, accepted to abandon its territorial claims in Canada in return for British recognition of French control of Guadeloupe.
In an effort to take advantage of the chaos ensuing from the French Revolution, Britain attempted to seize Guadeloupe in 1794 and held it from April 21 to June 2. The French retook the island under the command of Victor Hugues ( Hugues was born in Marseille and was a colonist in Saint-Domingue in the late 1780s and early 1790s. He returned to France and became an official in La Rochelle through his activity in the local Jacobin Club. After the emancipation decrees of Léger-Félicité Sonthonax and Étienne Polverel during the Haitian Revolution, the National Convention declared the end of slavery in all French territories in February 1794, and named Hugues civil commissioner to Guadeloupe ), who succeeded in freeing the slaves.
They revolted and turned on the slave-owners who controlled the sugar plantations as they force them to work with violance, but when American interests were threatened, Napoleon sent a force to suppress the rebels and reinstitute slavery. Louis Delgrès and a group of revolutionary soldiers killed themselves on the slopes of the Matouba volcano when it became obvious that the invading troops would take control of the island. The occupation force killed approximately 10,000 Guadeloupeans in the process of restoring order to the island.
On February 4, 1810 the British once again seized the island and held it until March 3, 1813, it was actually used by the British to bribe the Swedish into changing sides in the Napoleonic War. There was therefore a curious period when it was technically a Swedish colony . However, with the defeat of Napoleon and the Bourbon restoration, Guadeloupe was given back to the French. Britain agreed to pay Sweden 24 million pounds in compensation for the original deal falling through. The British left the island to France in the Treaty of Paris of 1814. An ensuing settlement between Sweden and the British gave rise to the Guadeloupe Fund. French control of Guadeloupe was finally acknowledged in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. Slavery was abolished on the island in 1848 at the initiative of Victor Schoelcher. Today the population of Guadeloupe is mostly of African origin with an important European and Indian active population. Lebanese, Chinese, and people of many other origins are also present.