Dominica - Political background



Carib Amerindians supplanted the island's indigenous Arawak people in the fourteenth century. Columbus landed in November 1493. In 1635, France claimed Dominica, and shortly thereafter French missionaries became the first European residents of the island. Dominica remained officially neutral for the next century, but the attraction of its resources remained; British and French lumbermen harvested timber in the eighteenth century. France eventually became predominant and established an active settlement. However, as part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the island became a British possession. In 1831, reflecting a more liberal official British racial policy, the brown privilege bill accorded political and social rights to free nonwhites. Three blacks became members of the legislative assembly the following year. Following the abolition of slavery in 1838, Dominica became the only British Caribbean colony to have a black-controlled legislature in the nineteenth century. In 1865, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one that consisted of one-half elected members and one-half appointed, but a Crown Colony government was reestablished in 1896. Following World War I, an increase of political consciousness and unrest throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the representative government association, which won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924 and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter Dominica became part of the Leeward Island Administration and was governed as part of the Windwards until 1958 when it joined the West Indies Federation. In 1967, Dominica, among other islands, became a self-governing state within the West Indies Associated States. On 3 November 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica gained its independence from the United Kingdom. The Dominica Freedom Party, under Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean's first female prime minister, ruled from 1980 through 1995. The United Workers Party, led by Prime Minister Edison James, governed until the February 2000 election, when the Dominica Labour Party (DPL), under the leadership of Roosevelt ("Rosie") Douglas, won control of the Parliament. Upon the sudden death of Douglas during the first year of his term, Pierre Charles became prime minister, taking office on 1 October 2000.

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