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Windward Islands

Windward Islands, southern group of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, curving generally southward for c.300 mi (480 km) from the Leeward Islands toward NE Venezuela. Excluding Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, which are in the region but are not part of the group, the Windward Islands consist of the French overseas dept. of Martinique and the former British Windward Islands (c.700 sq mi/1,810 sq km). The former British islands consist of the independent states of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Of volcanic origin, the islands are generally rugged, mountainous, and well forested, and they have many streams and lakes. With an equable climate, ample rainfall, and rich soil, they produce a variety of tropical agricultural crops for export, including bananas, spices, limes, and cacao. The islands are subject to hurricanes. Although small-scale manufacturing has gained importance, the most substantial change has been the growth of the tourist trade, which constitutes the region's economic mainstay. The deep and sheltered harbors encourage considerable interisland commerce. Fort-de-France, on Martinique, and Castries, on Saint Lucia, are the islands' chief cities. The islands are largely inhabited by descendants of Africans, who were brought as slaves during the colonial period. The culture varies from island to island, but the French influence is particularly strong.

For some time after Columbus's exploration of the islands, they were largely ignored by Europeans and left to the indigenous Caribs. In the early 17th cent., colonization was undertaken by the British and the French; settlements and sovereignty overlapped. The long struggle for dominance in the islands was a significant part of the worldwide Anglo-French conflict. Several naval battles were fought there; in 1782, off Saint Lucia, the French Admiral de Grasse was defeated by Admiral Rodney. In the Napoleonic Wars the islands traded hands, and it was only after the close of the conflict that Britain established its dominance over them.

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Windward Islands

Windward Islands Southern group of the Lesser Antilles islands, se West Indies. They extend from the Leeward Islands to the ne coast of Venezuela. The principal islands are Martinique, Grenada, Dominica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines group. The islands, volcanic in origin, are mountainous and forested. Tropical crops are grown, including bananas, spices, limes and cacao, but tourism is the leading industry. The islands were inhabited by the indigenous Carib until colonization began in the 17th century. The next two centuries witnessed a struggle for control between France and Britain. Britain eventually controlled all the islands, with the exception of Martinique. See West Indies map

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Windward Islands

Windward Islands. A southern continuation of the chain of islands in the Caribbean known as the Lesser Antilles, with Puerto Rico to the west and Trinidad to the south. They include Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, and St Vincent, with Barbados lying to the east. Martinique is a département of France.

J. A. Cannon

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