Important Dates in Dominica's History
Compiled by Lennox Honychurch
26 million years ago: Volcanic eruptions begin on the sea floor at 15.30ºN and 61.30ºW, creating a cluster of small peaks that eventually rise and merge to form one island. The last mountain forming eruption occurs 450 AD at Morne Patate, Soufriere. Dominica has seven main volcanic centres, the highest concentration of "live" volcanoes in the world.
c3000 BC: The first archaic people visit Dominica. They were hunter-gatherers who did not practice agriculture or make pottery.
c100 BC: The first agricultural people arrive on Dominica from the Orinoco region of South America. They make pottery and settle in villages. Some 38 sites have so far been found around the island. They were followed by other groups over the next 1500 years who raided and traded along the island chain to and from South America and up into the Greater Antilles. They have been called Arawaks and Caribs but that is not what they called themselves. The last group, the Kalinago called the island, Wai'tukubuli.
1493: 3 November. The Italian sea captain Christopher Columbus, leading a feet of 17 Spanish ships, sights Wai'tukubuli and renames it Dominica this morning but cannot land because the east coast is too rocky and rough so he sails on to neighbouring Mariegalant, where he declares possession of the islands in the name of Spain.
1502: Columbus passes along the west coast of Dominica on his fourth voyage.
1503: The first edicts or cedulas are issued by Spain declaring freedom for Spanish colonists in Hispaniola to hunt and enslave Caribs south of Puerto Rico.
1520: The Spanish Crown licences Antonio Serrano to be governor of Dominica and neighbouring islands, but the Kalinago defeat his party at Guadeloupe and no colonisation takes place.
1535: Dominica is declared to be a stopping place for the outward-bound convoys of the Spanish treasure fleets entering the Caribbean from Europe. The bay at what is now Portsmouth, "the bay on the northwest shore", with its forests, hot springs and fresh water was the anchorage. The fleets would then split into two, one sailing to Cartaghena and the Isthmus of Panama the other to Mexico.
1567: First reports of escaped African slaves and white deserters living among the Kalinago. Small fleet of Spanish treasure ships on their way back to Spain is wrecked in a storm off Capuchin Point. The Kalinago strip the ships that are cast onto the shore.
1568: French and English interlopers such as John Hawkins, Sir Francis
Drake and the Duke of Cumberland begin to use the bay as a refreshment stop
and for trading with the Kalinago for tobacco and food.
1627: Dominica and other "Caribbee Islands" claimed for the English by The Earl of Carlisle, but no physical occupation takes place.
1632: The French Company des Isles D'Amerique claims Dominica and other "Petite Antilles" for France, but no physical occupation takes place. Kalinago population estimated at 938.
1642: The French Roman Catholic missionary priest of the Dominican Order, Fr. Raymond Breton, arrives in Dominica to attempt to convert the Kalinago to Christianity. He visits regularly between 1642 and 1650. He fails in his mission, but compiles a Carib-French Dictionary. Celebrates the first Mass at Itassi (Vieille Case) and builds the first church, in the form of a Kalinago taboui, at Colihaut.
1653: In retaliation for a Kalinago attack on a French settlement on Mariegalante, Captain Du Mé attacks and massacres a Kalinago village on Dominica's north coast, called today: Anse Du Mé.
1660, 31 March: It was agreed between the Kalinago and French and English that Dominica and St.Vincent will be left for the Kalinago.
1667, 9 December: Carib Warner, Col. Thomas Warner, Chief in Dominica, is released from captivity by the French who had captured him in 1666. The English through Lord Willoughby, Governor of Barbados reinstates him as Lieutenant Governor of Dominica.
1674: The village of Chief Carib Warner on the west coast is massacred by his English half brother from Antigua and Carib Warner is murdered. The French later call the place Massacre.
1690s: French woodcutters from Martinique and Guadeloupe begin to set up timber camps here to supply the French islands with wood and gradually become permanent settlers. They bring the first enslaved people from West Africa to Dominica.
1700: The French priest Father Jean Baptiste Labat visits Dominica and goes to see the Kalinago on the east coast.
1715: A revolt of "poor white" smallholders in the north of Martinique, known as La Gaoulé, causes an exodus of them to southern Dominica; among them the Sorhaindo, Anselm, Darroux, Laurent, Laronde and Durand families. They set up smallholdings. Meanwhile, the Royer, Le Blanc, Brumant and Dubois families and others from Guadeloupe settle in the north.
1727: The first French commander, M. Le Grand, takes charge of the island with a basic French government thus making Dominica formally a colony of France. The island is divided into districts or "quarters". The Jesuit religious order operates a plantation at Grand Bay.
1731: The English and French Kings direct that the French settlers on Dominica should be evacuated and the island left for the Kalinago.
1748: Dominica is declared a "Neutral Island" by the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle, to be occupied by no European nation and to be left to the Caribs forever.
1761, 6 June: Attack by British forces led by Sir James Douglas and Lord Rollo on the small French settlement at Roseau. They accuse the French of breaking the terms of the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle. They capture the town and occupy the island. Many African slaves take advantage of the confusion and escape into the forest.
1763, 10 February: Dominica is ceded to Britain by the terms of the 9th article of the Treaty of Paris and becomes a British colony.
1764: British Commissioners for Land arrive with surveyors to begin dividing the island up into lots for sale. The Byres map drawn by John Byres (published 1776) becomes the basis for all future landholding on Dominica. The island divided into parishes. The importation of enslaved Africans increases rapidly as thousands of acres of land are cleared for sugar and coffee plantations.
1765: First government established as part of the federated colony of the "South Caribbees" with headquarters in Grenada. Portsmouth is designed and laid out as the capital of Dominica. First laws passed, court of justice convened, printing press imported, Anglican Church established. Several violent shocks of earthquakes were felt in April and May and a hurricane hit later in the year.
1766: The population returns: 2020 whites and 8497 slaves.
1768: Portsmouth is found to be unhealthy and plans are drawn up for the capital at Roseau.
1770: Dominica colonists want their own House of Assembly and the island becomes a separate colony with its first governor, Sir William Young.
1773: The population returns: 3350 whites, 750 free people of colour and 18,753 slaves, Kalinago not accounted for.
1778, 7 September: French forces under Marquis de Bouille capture Roseau and occupy the island. Marquis Duchilleau appointed governor; 5000 French soldiers are left in Dominica; laws are passed against the British inhabitants.
1780, 10 October: A strong hurricane. Population returns: 1066 whites, 543 free people of colour, 12,713 slaves.
1781: Roseau is destroyed by fire, 500 houses lost. The French forces are blamed. Marquis Duchilleau is recalled and is succeeded as governor by Count de Bourgoinae and then by M. de Beaupre.
1782, 12 April: The Battle of the Saintes, fought between the French navy under Admiral Compt de Grasse and the British Navy under Admiral George Rodney, takes place off the north coast of Dominica. The British defeat the French.
1783: The Treaty of Versailles, signed in January and ratified in September, returns Dominica to the British.
1784, January: The new British governor, Sir John Orde, arrives and takes the island over for Britain.
1785 - 1786: Uprising by maroons led by Chief Balla and others. The First Maroon War. Attack on Rosalie estate and counter attack by British forces on maroon camps near Belles. Women such as Angelique, Calypso and Victorie are taken prisoner and give evidence in court.150 maroons killed. Balla is captured and placed on a gibbet in Roseau until dead. The slave of Belfast estate who caught him is given freedom and £165.
1787: The first Methodist missionaries arrive led by Thomas Coke. Population returns: 1236 whites, 545 free people of colour, 14,967 slaves.
1788: Act passed by House of Assembly for Amelioration of condition of the enslaved.
1791: Slave revolt in the south and east of the island, mainly in the parish of St.Patrick. Sir John Orde receives vote of thanks from the Assembly and planter interests for suppressing the revolt.
1795: French revolutionary forces attack the island along the north coast. French Republican sympathizers at Colihaut revolt and cut through forest to try to meet invaders, but this fails and British forces rout the attackers. 600 French inhabitants deported from the island.
1796: The creation of the first Black Regiment of the West India Regiments at Roseau made up of enslaved Africans trained for defence of the colony. They are stationed at the Cabrits Garrison.
1799: Amelioration Act passed respecting the attendance of slaves at Divine service.
1802: The 8th West India regiment revolts at the Cabrits and takes over the garrison for three days before being defeated and disbanded by Governor Cochrane.
1805: The last French attack on Dominica is mounted by General La Grange from Martinique. Roseau is captured and burned. The members of the legislature are taken hostage. A ransom of £20,000 is demanded but only £8,000 is paid. Governor George Prevost and soldiers dash across the island to the Cabrits via the Carib Quarter and make the Cabrits ready for attack. The French ships approach Cabrits but decide to give up the attack. Dominica remains British until 1978. Population returns: 1594 whites, 2882 free people of colour, 22,083 slaves.
1806, 9 September: Devastating hurricane hit; Roseau river rose and flooded the capital; a number of houses carried away and 131 persons killed.
1813: Devastating hurricane.
1814 -1815: Second Maroon War with uprising of maroons all over the island. Governor Ainslie directs a sweeping policy of retribution. Old maroon chief Jacko is killed. Captures, hangings and other punishments take place. Ainslie is recalled to England to answer charges of excessive cruelty.
1822: Amelioration Acts passed aimed at improving the conditions of the enslaved population.
1825: Devastating hurricane.
1829: Roman Catholic Emancipation Act passed. It frees Roman Catholics of the restrictions put upon them by the protestant British government and allows them to take part fully in civil and political life.
1832: Dominica starts being administered by a government based in St.John's, Antigua as part of the Leeward Islands. The "Brown Privilege Bill" is passed abolishing all discrimination on grounds of colour for all free people.
1834, 1 August: Emancipation of the enslaved population, but with an "apprenticeship" period before full freedom. "The Great Hurricane" devastates the island in September.
1836: "People of Colour" form the majority in the House of Assembly; the first place in the British Empire where this is so. The beginning of what was called "The Mulatto Ascendancy".
1837: Enslaved Africans found on foreign slave ships by the Royal Navy are set free on Dominican shores and settle at various parts of the island as free people.
1838, 1 August: Full Emancipation of the enslaved population. The building of a free society begins and the origins of Dominica's post emancipation villages on the borders of the estates are established.
1844: The Census Riots take place when the labouring people get suspicious of the taking of the first census and a rumour spreads that it is to take the names of people to reintroduce slavery. The militia is called out and the riots quelled. It is called "La Guerre Negre".
1850: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Roseau is established after being administered from Port of Spain, Trinidad. The first Bishop takes up office. The new diocese covers the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands. Intensive evangelisation and baptisms begins all over the island.
1856: The Batalie Riots take place over squatting on land at Batalie comprising "The Queen's Three Chains" which the people considered to be their right. A tax for the repair of roads is started, the Road Tax, called locally "Traveau". It was hated mainly because it was the first tax to be imposed on all citizens, demanding everyone to work for a certain number of days on the roads each year or to pay money for repairs instead.
1857: The first Roman Catholic nuns, from Norwood in England, arrive to begin the Convent School.
1871: Dominica becomes a fully federated member of the Leeward Islands Colony governed from Antigua.
1880: A steam or "phreatic" eruption in the Boiling Lake area takes place, covering Roseau in ash and causing fear among people of the town.
1888: Land Tax and other taxes imposed amidst great controversy.
1891: The Botanic Gardens established on lands of Bath Estate behind Roseau.
1893: A riot breaks out at La Plaine when police attempt to evict a villager who has not paid his land tax. A warship, the HMS Mohawk, is called and police and Marines are landed. Four villagers are shot dead. It is known as the Land Tax Riots or "Temps Mohawk". Sir Robert Hamilton arrives later in the year to begin an enquiry into conditions in Dominica, published in 1894. Dominica Grammar School (DGS) established with 25 pupils.
1896: The members of the House of Assembly vote to abolish the elected legislature and to replace it with an entirely nominated body appointed by the governor, thus establishing direct Crown Colony government. No popular elections take place for the next 29 years.
1902, 8 May: The volcano, Montagne Pele, on Martinique erupts sending volcanic ash over Dominica. Refugees from Martinique arrive in boats to the southern villages and some remain permanently on the island.
1903, 4 July: Administrator Henry Hesketh Bell establishes the Carib Reserve of approximately 3700 acres and recognises a chief, Francois Auguiste.
1905: Electric light installed in Roseau for the first time from a small hydropower station at Riviere Douce.
1906: The Imperial Road to the centre of the island completed. Limes take over from sugar, cocoa and coffee as the main crop.
1914 -1918: World War I; many young Dominican men, mainly the sons of small farmers, volunteer to go to Europe and fight for the British Empire.
1916: Hurricane causes much flooding and coastal damage. Houses at Colihaut are washed out to sea.
1922, January: Visit of the Wood Commission, under Hon. E.L.F. Wood, to investigate demands for constitutional change and conditions of the colony.
1923: Collapse of the lime industry due to Red Root and Whither Tip disease in the lime trees. Attempts made to build it back and replant with grafted rootstock but economy is seriously affected.
1925: Constitutional changes bring back an elected legislature. But voters must have qualifications of income or property to a certain value to be qualified to vote. The island is divided into four constituencies. Women get the vote for the first time.
1928: Hurricane passes to the north of Dominica causing much damage.
1929: The Wall Street Crash on the New York Stock Exchange affects the world economy and West Indian trade. It is the start of 20 years of economic stagnation on Dominica.
1930: Hurricane devastates Dominica. Carib rising on 19 September against police searching for smuggled goods. In retaliation, a warship, HMS Delhi is called, star shells are fired over the territory, and the police kill Caribs. Carib Chief, Jolly John, is stripped of his official position and Chief's staff and sash are taken away.
1932, October: The Dominica Conference takes place, bringing together West Indian leaders of the time to discuss the self-government of the West Indies. It is the first of its kind. St. Mary's Academy (SMA) established.
1937: The constitution is amended to provide for an elected majority in the Legislative Council. General elections take place.
1938: The West Indies Commission led by Lord Moyne visits Dominica to investigate and report on conditions on the island. The findings later published as part of the Moyne Commission Report.
1940: As a result of the Moyne Commission, The Colonial Development and Welfare Office established for the British West Indies, providing funds for big changes to Dominica in the years ahead in the form of roads, jetties, air communication, health education and other social services. The first woman elected to the Legislative Council: Elma Napier, representing the north-eastern district.
1940-1945: The Second World War. Some Dominicans volunteer to serve in British and Caribbean forces. Thousands of Free French refugees from Martinique and Guadeloupe escape to Dominica from the Vichy controlled French islands and stay in Roseau and villages. Economy at a standstill.
1945: The first trade union, The Dominica Trade Union (DTU) is founded with Emanuel Christopher Loblack as General Secretary.
1949: The first shipment of bananas to leave Dominica since the war sails on the S.S. Barena for England. Shipment organised by Irish company, Antilles Products Ltd., thus opening up the banana industry, which prospers for the next 50 years.
1950: An amphibious seaplane, the Grumman Goose, begins a passenger and postal service, landing at Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth and later Soufriere Bay in the south.
1951: Universal Adult Suffrage, the right for everyone over the age of 21 to vote without wage or property qualifications, is introduced. General elections take place.
1952: Carib Chief reinstalled and Carib Council becomes part of the Local Government system.
1954: Geest Industries of the UK takes over the banana industry of Dominica and the Windward Islands, organising purchase, shipping and distribution. It buys and plants up Woodford Hill and Picard estates with bananas and Brantridge with grapefruit.
1955, 24 May: Phyllis Shand Allfrey and Emanuel C. Loblack found The Dominica Labour Party (DLP).
1956: The Transinsular Road is opened, crossing the island from Canefield to Marigot, the first motorable road across the island. The building of roads connecting many villages follows, bringing about great social and economic changes. Ministerial system of government established as advisors to the Administrator. Princess Margaret Hospital opened.
1957: General elections. Edward Le Blanc joins the DLP and wins a seat. Franklyn Baron founds the Dominica United People's Party (DUPP), which forms the government.
1958: The first airstrip at Melville Hall is opened to air traffic. Elections for the Government of the Federation of the West Indies are held. Phyllis Shand Allfrey and Edward Le Blanc win the two seats allotted to Dominica. Mrs. Allfrey is made Minister of Labour and Social Services.
1960: Constitutional changes create the position of Chief Minister. Constituencies increased to 11. A new coat of arms is designed for Dominica.
1961, January: General elections bring the DLP to power with Edward Le Blanc as Chief Minister. Melville Hall airport terminal and new airstrip opened.
1962: The Federation of the West Indies collapses and Phyllis Allfrey returns home and is expelled from the DLP. Dominica becomes part of a scheme for sub-regional unity: "The Little Eight".
1963: A tragic fire during Carnival spreads through a band of sensay costumed revellers killing three and injuring several others. Masks and sensay costumes are banned for the next 30 years.
1966: General Elections. DLP sweeps the polls 10 to 1. Conference is held in London, attended by Le Blanc and others on a system of self-government of Dominica.
1967, 1 March: New Constitution establishing Dominica as a self-governing state in association with Britain: Associated Statehood. Le Blanc becomes Premier; Sir Louis Cools-Lartigue becomes first local governor. Statehood flag and National Song with words by W.O.M. Pond and music by L.M. Christian is adopted. Main celebrations held on 3 November, declared National Day.
1968: Protest demonstrations over Seditious and Undesirable Publications Act. Mary Eugenia Charles and others found the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), among them former DUPP members and supporters.
1970: General elections. The Le Blanc Labour Party returned to office after split in the DLP.
1971: Protest demonstrations against the intended abolition of the Roseau Town Council and against the Grenada Declaration seeking to unite the Windward Islands with Guyana. House of Assembly damaged; arrests made.
1973: Island wide strike by the public service. State of emergency declared. Leaders put under house arrest.
1974: Le Blanc resigns as Premier and Patrick Roland John takes over. Constituencies increased from 11 to 21. Voting age lowered to 18. Unlawful Societies and Associations Act, "Dread Act" passed.
1975: DLP wins with a landslide. M. Eugenia Charles, elected to Roseau Central, becomes Leader of the Opposition.
1976: At the village of Salisbury, Patrick John announces intension to take the country to independence; issued as The Salisbury Declaration.
1977: Constitutional talks on independence take place in London in March and May. Strikes shut down the island.
1978, 3 November: Political independence. New constitution comes into effect. New flag, designed by Alwin Bully, is hoisted. Patrick John becomes first Prime Minister and Fred Degazon is elected first President.
1979, 29 May: Protest demonstration against the government takes place around Government Headquarters in Roseau. Defence Force fire into crowd. One person killed, 13 injured. Island is shut down until government changes. In June Oliver J. Seraphin is made Prime Minister. 29 August, Hurricane David hits, devastating the island.
1980: General Elections. Seraphin forms the short-lived Democratic Labour Party (Dem Lab). The DFP has landslide victory at the polls (DFP:17-IND:2 - Dem Lab- 2) and M. Eugenia Charles becomes first Caribbean woman prime minister.
1981: Dominica signs agreement founding the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Patrick John attempt two armed coups d'etate against the DFP government. These were foiled and a series of arrests, trials and imprisonments commenced in relation to this.
1983, October: Dominica supports US invasion of Grenada with Eugenia Charles, then Chairman of the OECS, as prime spokesperson.
1985: General Elections: DFP is returned to power with a reduced majority (DFP:15- DLP:6).
1988: "Reunion 88", encouraging Dominicans overseas to return to Dominica is celebrated throughout the year. The United Workers Party (UWP) led by Edison James is founded on 5 July.
1990: General Elections: DFP returned to power with further reduced majority (DFP:11- UWP:6 - DLP:4).
1995: General Elections: UWP wins and Edison James becomes Prime Minister, (UWP:11 - DLP:5 - DFP:5).
2000: General Elections: A coalition of the DLP and the DFP wins and Roosevelt Douglas becomes Prime Minister, (DLP:10 - DFP:2 - UWP:9). On 1, October, Douglas dies from a heart attack and Pierre Charles takes over as Prime Minister. Efforts begin to rescue Dominica from serious economic crisis.
2004, 6 January: Pierre Charles dies from a heart attack. Roosevelt
Skerrit takes over as Prime Minister.
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