Like many of the Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe has a complex history. But this island has consistently remained under French control. The name Guadeloupe also applies to a French department in the Caribbean that has been staked out for much of modern history.

Early Events

Guadeloupe's first inhabitants were Arawak Indians. These Indians lived on the island until a tribe of the more warlike Carib Indians arrived and took control. They named the island Karukéra, which means "the island with beautiful water." An archaeological park with carved stones from the Indians can be found on Basse-Terre at Trois-Rivières.

The Caribs are the Indians whom the Spanish found on the island when they first tried to colonize it. However, the Caribs were powerful defenders of their turf, and the Spanish never settled Guadeloupe, which Columbus had named in 1493. It was named for a Spanish monastery the explorer had visited.

Although the Spanish never managed to colonize the island, Guadeloupe became an important stopping place for ships in the region during the 16th century. The French were the first to colonize the island when the Compagnie des Iles d'Amérique sent explorers De l'Olive and Duplessis in 1635 to take control of the island. They fought and defeated the Caribs. Modern History

During the first World War, Guadeloupe did what it could to contribute, and shortly afterward in 1923 it exported its first local bananas, termed "la petite tigrée," or "little stripy one," to France. Just a few years later in 1928, Guadeloupe suffered a disastrous cyclone, and much of the island was reconstructed by architect Ali Tur.

After more than a decade of relative peace, the island's Governor Sorin instituted a "compulsory work" program. This program lasted from 1940 to 1943. Sorin is also known for his support of the Vichy government, and in 1943 the Free French regained control and fought with the help of General DeGaulle. Three years later, Guadeloupe became an overseas Department of France.