prior to Columbus' landing, was populated by Amerindians who lived
in a largely agrarian society. It is believed that these people
migrated from the South American mainland and eventually spread
all the way up the Caribbean chain.
Columbus discovered Trinidad during
voyage in 1498. The story says that
he named the island Trinidad after it's three peaks on the southern
coast in thanksgiving for finding land after a long trip at sea.
Columbus landed on the island and replenished his provisions,
then continued on to Venezuela.
He returned to Trinidad once again for provisions before continuing
his voyage north.
remained largely ignored until 1532 when the first governor, Don
Antonio Sedeno, arrived to start a colony. This and several further
attempts were largely unsuccessful until St. Joseph was founded
in 1592. The fact is that Spain truly had neither the manpower
nor the economic strength to adequately support and develop the
colony, and the setlers often times had to resort to trade with
the British, and other rivals of the Spanish, just to survive.
changed in 1783 with the issuing of the Cedula of Population,
which allowed any Catholic person to settle in the island. Although
Catholics came from many countries, the French
were by far the most numerous. It is said that the colony in this
period was Spanish in name, but French for all other intents and
purposes. These colonists began large scale agricultural development,
which in turn necessitated the importation of large amounts of
slave labor. Until this time, slaves had been relatively scarce
on the island.
1797, war in Europe had spread into the Caribbean. The British
captured Trinidad without a shot, and it was formally ceded to
England in 1802.
retained the Spanish constitution, which provided for a Governor
, a council of appointed advisors known as the Council of Advice,
and the Cabildo, an elected body. The Council of Advice eventually
became the Legislative Council, and the Cabildo evolved into the
Port of Spain City Council.
the British abolished slavery. The slave owners then turned to
indentured servitude to fill their labor needs, and thousands
of immigrants were brought to the island. Some were Portuguese
and Chinese, but most of the
indentured were Indian. This
practice continued until the early twentieth century, when the
Indian government put an end to it.
the nineteenth century, the island experienced cycles of prosperity
and recession, largely dependent on the world sugar industry
first claimed the island of Tobago in 1608, but it changed hands
repeatedly for over 200 years. It was, at times, under the rule
of both the French and the Dutch, but was finally ceded to England
by France in 1763.
economy was largely agricultural, but the relatively small size
of the island made it nearly impossible to be truly self sufficient.
In 1889 Trinidad
and Tobago were united as one colony. The early twentieth century
saw the discovery of oil in Trinidad, which resulted in strong
economic growth and prosperity. The island became strategically
important and the Americans established several bases in Trinidad
during WWII as a result of the Lend-Lease arrangement with England.
Many an American serviceman returned to the US with a Trinidadian
drive for increased local rule and eventual independence began
with the trade unions in the 1920's. Some constitutional reform
was instituted, and universal sufferage was approved in 1945,
but it was not until 1950 that the Legislative Council was modified
so that the majority of the members were elected. The 1950 Constitution
also provided for an Executive Council, and a ministerial system.
The drive for self rule culminated with Independence in 1962,
subsequent to the failed experiment called the British West Indian
and Tobago became a Republic in 1976.
information in this section was obtained primarily from History
of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, by Eric Williams. Port
of Spain: PNM Publishing Company Ltd., 1962.)