The island of St. Maarten has a full history that dates back to 3000 B.C when the indigenous Arawak and Carib tribes first inhabited the land. On November 11, 1493 the Island was discovered and named by Christopher Columbus. Since this time, St. Maarten has experienced many cultural influences from different nations such as The Netherlands, France, Spain, and England.
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St. Martin gets its name from an ancient celebration called “the Feast of St. Martin of Tours”. This holiday that was commonly observed throughout Europe, celebrates the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of harvesting.
The island was discovered on November 11, 1493, which was the same day this ancient holiday was held. So the island was then named St. Martin, in honor of “the feast of St. Martin”.
Archaeological findings have revealed the existence of Amerindian cultures on the island of St. Maarten since 3000 B.C. These indigenous people arrived from the coast of Venezuela and inhabited the Island of St. Maarten until 1600 A.D.
The natives originally named the island “Sualouigia” meaning “Land of Salt” because of the abundant salt ponds dispersed across the Island.
The first natives to the island of St. Maarten were the Arawak and the Carib tribes.
The Arawak were a peaceful and agricultural people with their focus being on farming, fishing, and hunting. They lived in wooden huts with straw roofs that were specially built to resist hurricanes and mainly cultivated crops such as corn, tobacco, and cassava. Known for their docile and tranquil nature, they were not natural fighters, this led them to be brutally overtaken by the Carib tribe later on.
On the other hand, Carib people were known for their aggressive war-like nature. They were maritime people who sailed throughout the Caribbean conquering island after island. They raided the Arawak settlements and enslaved many of them about 30 years before European settlers came.
St. Martin was discovered by Christopher Columbus, during his exploration of the west on November 11, 1493. The Italian voyager sponsored by the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I originally claimed the Island for Spain.
The historical periods of St. Maarten are listed below:
During this time period, the land was inhabited by the indigenous Amerindian tribes. The first of the tribes were the Arawaks. They were an agricultural society that valued artistic and spiritual pursuits. Their peaceful nature led them to be overtaken by the Carib tribe right before the Europeans settled the land.
The arrival of the Europeans started in 1493 when Christopher Columbus claimed St. Martin for Spain. Shortly after Columbus’ arrival, many countries such as the Netherlands, France, Spain, England, and Portugal sought to profit from the island’s natural salt deposits. Salt was a rare commodity in Europe and was quite a profitable trade, this resulted in many wars between the French, Dutch and Spanish settlers.
With Spain retreating in 1648, the French and the Dutch nations signed a treaty in 1648 called the Treaty of Mount Concordia, that divided the island into two parts. St. Martin then became a dually owned island.
Even with the treaty of Mount Concordia signed, ownership of St. Martin passed through the hands of several different countries who were trying to gain control over the island’s natural resources during the 18th and 19th centuries. The island thus experienced cultural influences from France, England, The Netherlands, Spain, and the United States during this time period.
During the early 18th century, slaves were used to work on the many sugar plantations that were developed, this lasted until the abolition of slavery in 1848. The abolition of slavery led to the downfall of the sugar industry in St. Maarten, this caused a decline in commercial trade and forced many to leave the island.
In the early 20th century with St. Maarten’s natural resources being depleted, the population of the island went down to 2,000 people. In 1940 things changed for St. Maarten, with World War II on the scene. The trade between St. Maarten and the United States intensified and it led to a very prosperous period for the island.
In 1943, Princess Juliana Airport was founded. The United States was forced to build many runways because of the threat of German submarines in the Caribbean. This became a very important airbase for the US in their attack against the Germans. During the presence of the United States on the Island, English became the main language of St. Maarten.
In the 1960s there was a significant rise in the tourism economy. St. Maarten, being only four hours away from the United States and having beautifully sunny and sandy beaches, experienced significant economic growth. The population of the country quickly jumped from 4,000 in the 1960s to more than 40,000 by the end of the century.
In the early 21st century, despite the flourishing tourism economy, St. Maarten was in the midst of devastation due to hurricane Luis on September 5, 1995. After St. Martin was rebuilt, 22 years later on September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the island.
This was the most powerful hurricane that had ever been recorded in the area. Hurricane Irma left 11 dead, hundreds injured, and thousands homeless. Most buildings including hotels and tourist accommodations were destroyed.
Since the hurricane, the locals have made progress in restoring St. Maarten to its natural beauty. The culture and splendor of St. Maarten still attracts many tourists from all over the world to this day. St. Maarten currently has more than 100 hotels, luxury apartments, and villas and welcomes 900,000 cruise ships as well as over 570,000 plane arrivals per year.
The significant events in the history of St. Maarten are listed below.
The wars and invasions that have occurred on the Island of St. Maarten throughout history are listed below.
The important people in the history of St. Maarten are listed below.
The important buildings in the history of St. Maarten are listed below.
St. Maarten is a dual-owned Island, but there is no visible border division. The northern side of the island, "Saint Martin" is owned by France, and it is considered part of the French West Indies. The Southern half of the island, "Sint Maarten" is owned by the Netherlands.
Some of the historical museums containing artifacts that are located in St. Maarten are listed below.