|Commonwealth of the West Indies|
|Fédération des Antilles|
|Established||French Colonies (1600s-1870)|
British Rule (1870-1936)
|Currency||Antilles Franc (AFF)|
The Antilles Federation (French: Fédération des Antilles) is a political union and a sovereign state located in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles. It is made up of three constituent parts: Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west. Its capital is Fort-de-France, located in the island of Martinique. The islands were all part of the Kingdom of France's overseas, until 1871 when they transferred over to Great Britain in the aftermath Communard Revolutions.
From 1956-1963, Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique was part of the independent West Indies Union, before political disagreements caused them to secede as the Antilles Federation in 1963.
Early History and French Rule (early 1600s to early 1800s)
Since 1648, the Kingdom of France and the Dutch Republic divided the island of Saint Martin into two, with the French taking the northern half of the island and the Dutch to the south. In 1760, the Kingdom of France purchased the southern half of the island from the Dutch.
The first French settlers arrived on the island of Martinique (Matinik) in the 1630s. Several skirmishes had occurred between the French settlers and the indigenous Caribs, which led to the migration of the Caribs to the western portion of the island. More skirmishes between the natives would occur throughout the late 1600s, which often ended in the expulsion of several of these natives. More French settlers settled into the island of Martinique in the 1700s. However, unlike the settlers in New France, the French settlers who moved in to Martinique were French Huguenots who sought greater religious freedom. In the late 1600s, large numbers of slaves were imported from Africa to work on sugar plantations.
The island of Saint Barthélemy is believed to be uninhabited prior to the arrival of the French, although it was often frequented by the Arawak and Taíno peoples. Official French settlement began in the island in 1648. The island proved economically unsuccessful, and was often subject to the activity of pirates during the late 17th century. In the 1710s, pirates coming in from the pirate republic of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands had attempted to seize the island from the French, in order to expand their base of operations. This attack, however, was repelled by the French fleet. A greater effort was made to protect the island from piracy. France sent more settlers over to the island, and a fort was established. Due to its poor conditions, the island had to be constantly resupplied from Martinique during its early years. It was not only until the 1730s that the island was considered prosperous. Previously administered through Martinique, the island was finally given their own local government.
The Communard Revolutions, and the British Takeover (1870)
Great Britain had already expressed interest in these islands since the French Revolution, and in fact had briefly occupied all Saint Martin and Martinique during the revolutionary wars. However, these islands were eventually returned to the Kingdom of France after the wars. In the 1870s, revolution had struck France again. Great Britain and France soon got embroiled in a war, allowing Great Britain to formally take the islands in the peace treaty that followed.
The administration of these Francophone islands proved to be hard for the British, which led them to keep the current government in place, as long as they swore loyalty to Great Britain.
Independence, and membership into the West Indies Union
In the 1950s, these islands were given independence by Great Britain. The islands were invited to be part of the majority-Anglophonic West Indies Union (which was composed of former British islands granted independence at around the same time). A referendum was made in the islands and all were in favor of membership in the Union. In 1956, the three islands officially became members of the West Indies Union.
Secession from the West Indies Union
A lot of political infighting would occur within the new union. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, there was a resounding disgruntlement in Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique over the federal government of the West Indies Union. They resented the seemingly pro-Anglophone policies set by the majority party in the West Indies Union legislature (led by the West Indies Conservative Party at the time). They resented the claimed 'lack of representation' for the Francophone islands. Several negotiations between the West Indies Union federal government, the Francophonic islands, and the Great Britain were held, but were unsuccessful in pacifying the political tensions on the island.
After a historic referendum held in the island of Martinique in 1963, Martinique officially seceded from the West Indies Union (which was deemed legal under the West Indies Union constitution). Similar referendums were also held in Saint Martin and St. Barthélemy, with them officially seceding from the Union a few weeks later.
The islands which seceded formed a new federation, the Antilles Federation (Fédération des Antilles).
During the early years of the island, protestant French Huguenots made up most of the French population. During the France's efforts in fortifying and settling the islands in the 1700s, this Huguenot population was quickly overshadowed by French Catholic settlers. Catholic churches were built in the islands and administered the proselytization of the natives. In the present day, 70% of the population of the Antilles Federation are Catholic, while 29% claim to be protestant. Other faiths or irreligiousness make up 1% of the population.
People of European descent make up 38% of the population, while people of African descent make up 59%.