The territory was disputed between France and the United Kingdom in the 18th century, before being ceded to the British in 1763 and again in 1783. It gained independence on October 27, 1979. Approximately 100,000 people live on the island. Kingstown is the chief town. The rest of the population is dispersed along the coastal strip, which includes the other five main towns of Layou, Barrouallie, Chateaubelair, Georgetown, and Calliaqua.
The people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are called Vincentians, or colloquially Vincies. There are also a few white descendants of English and French colonists, as well as a significant number of Indo-Vincentians, descendants of indentured workers with Indian heritage and there is a sizable minority of mixed race (19%).
The population of the island in 2012 was about 100,000. The main religions are Anglican (47%), Methodist (10%), Roman Catholic (13%), other Protestant denominations such as Seventh-day Adventist, and Hinduism.
Adult literacy was 88.1% in 2004. Infant mortality in 2006 was 17 per 1,000 live births and life expectancy for men stood at 69 years, with 74 years for women. The active workforce in 2006 was 57,695 and unemployment in 2004 was 12%.
Before 1498, the island had been called Hairouna by the Caribs. Columbus named the island Saint Vincent, since it is said to have been discovered on 22 January, the feast day of the patron saint of Lisbon and Valencia, Vincent of Saragossa.
Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors largely ignored St. Vincent and the smaller Grenadine islands nearby, but focused instead on the pursuit of gold and silver in Central and South America. They did embark on slaving expeditions in and around St. Vincent following royal sanction in 1511, driving the Carib inhabitants to the rugged interior, but the Spanish made no attempt to settle the island.
Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia or Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs". Now those of mixed African-Carib ancestry are known as Garifuna.
The first Europeans to occupy St. Vincent were the French. However, following a series of wars and peace treaties, these islands were eventually ceded to the British. While the English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, the French centered on the island of Martinique would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent in 1719. The French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, corn, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves.
St. Vincent was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1763), after which friction between the British and the Caribs led to the First Carib War. On taking control of the island in 1763, the British laid the foundations of Fort Charlotte. The island was restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1783). Between 1795 and 1796, with French support from Martinique, the Black Caribs, led by their chief, Joseph Chatoyer, fought a series of battles against the British. Their uprising was eventually put down, however, resulting in almost 5,000 Black Caribs being exiled to the tiny island of Baliceaux off the coast of Bequia. Conflict between the British and the black Caribs continued until 1796, when General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. The British deported more than 5,000 black Caribs to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. Fort Charlotte was completed by 1806.
Like the French before them, the British also used African slaves to work plantations of sugar, coffee, indigo, tobacco, cotton and cocoa until full emancipation in 1838. The economy then went into a period of decline with many landowners abandoning their estates and leaving the land to be cultivated by liberated slaves. Life was made even harder following two eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano in 1812 and 1902 when much of the island was destroyed and many people were killed. In 1979 it erupted again but this time with no fatalities. In the same year, St Vincent & The Grenadines gained full independence from Britain though it remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776. Decades after the success of the Haitian Revolution, the British abolished slavery in 1834. The resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and East Indians in the 1860s as laborers. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the 20th century. The Opobo king Jaja was exiled to St. Vincent after his 1887 arrest by the British for shipping cargoes of palm oil directly to Liverpool without the intermediation of the National African Company.
A Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a Legislative Council created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage granted in 1951. During this period, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in order to govern the region through a unified administration. The most notable was the West Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962.
St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status on October 27, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. It celebrates independence on 27 October 1979.
The island of Saint Vincent is 29 kilometres (18 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide and is located 160 kilometres (99 mi) west of Barbados.
On the island of Saint Vincent, there is a 1,234-metre (4,049 ft) active volcano, La Soufriere, that erupted violently in 1812 and 1902. The most recent eruption was on April 13, 1979, falling on Good Friday.
The island is very mountainous and well-forested.
Saint Vincent island belongs to the Lesser Antilles chain.
The island has a total surface area of 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), or about 88% of the total country area, 19 times that of the country's second largest island Bequia. The coastline measures about 84 kilometres (52 mi).
The island's climate is tropical and humid, with an average of between 18 and 31 °C (64 and 88 °F) depending on the altitude.
More than 95% of the beaches on the mainland have black sand, while most of the beaches in the Grenadines have white sand.
For many years, the black sand was used in the building industry. During recent times, because of destruction to the coastal areas, the government has restricted the amount of sand that may be removed from beaches, as well as the specific beaches from which sand may be removed. The sand is still used in construction of pitched roads, as it blends in with the colour of the asphalt used for road construction.
In 2002, Saint Vincent was one of the filming locations for the American adventure fantasy film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Filming took place from October 2002 through to March 2003, and several hundreds of the local inhabitants were hired as cast members.
Saint Vincent is home to a number of International accrediting Medical Schools:
In addition to the international schools, Saint Vincent is also home to local educational schools.