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Montserrat is one of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. It is located in the Caribbean Sea southwest of Antigua and northwest of Guadeloupe. The island, is mountainous with a total area of 102 sq km and is subject to volcanic activity.

The original inhabitants of Montserrat were the indigenous Kalinago-Taino (Carib-Arawaks).

The territory was named ‘Santa María de Montserrat’. by Columbus in 1493 after a namesake mountain in Catalonia, Spain.

Kalinago resistance kept most colonizers away for nearly 150 years until 1632 when Montserrat came under English control and a group of Irish fleeing anti-Catholic attitudes in Saint Kitts and Nevis were forcibly settled on the island.

As in the rest of the Caribbean thousands of Africans in chains were shipped in over the next two centuries to provide forced labour in a plantation economy based on sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton.

Montserrat later changed hands a few times until finally coming under British control in 1783. During the American War of Independence in 1782 Montserrat was briefly captured by France but was returned the following year to Britain under the Treaty of Versailles. From 1871 until 1956 Montserrat was administered as a part of the Leeward Islands group and in 1958 became a member of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies.

Following the dissolution of the federation in 1962, the residents voted to remain a dependency of Great Britain. The people of Montserrat were accorded full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and in 2002 were granted citizenship.

Main languages: English

Main religions: Christianity (Anglican)

The majority of the population of Montserrat is of African origin.

Montserrat is a British overseas territory. The monarch is represented by the Governor who administers the territory assisted by executive and legislative councils.

The main economic activity is farming and the climate and terrain has attracted a number of Canadian, British and US expatriates.

Minority based and advocacy organisations

Montserrat National Trust
Tel: + 1 664 491 3086

Sources and further reading

Breton, Raymond] – Observations on the Island Carib: A Compilation of Ethnographic Notes. Based on Breton’s Dictionnaire Caraibe-Francois. Selected, Organized and Translated by Marshall McKusick and Pierre Verin. (St Georges: Callinago P) 48 pages pamph, 1978.

Dick, Kenneth C. Aboriginal and early Spanish names of some Caribbean, Circum-Caribbean islands and cays. (Virgin Islands Archaeological Society Journal [St Thomas, US Virgin Islands 4, 1977

Drewett, Peter L – Prehistoric Settlements in the Caribbean. (St Michael: Archetype Publications) 2000.

Mitchell, Harold. Europe in the Caribbean: the policies of Great Britain, France and The Netherlands toward their West Indian territories. Edinburgh, England, T. & A. Constable Ltd., 1963

Nicholson, Desmond V. Precolumbian seafaring capabilities in the Lesser Antilles. (in International Congress for the Study of the Pre-Columbian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles. VI, Guadeloupe, 1975

The impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic world. Edited by David Patrick Geggus. Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina, 2001.

The white minority in the Caribbean. Edited by Howard Johnson and Karl S. Watson. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers; Oxford, England: J. Currey Publishers; Princeton, N.J.: M. Wiener Publishers, 1998