Plymouth, on the southwestern coast, was the capital and only port of entry until 1997, when volcanic eruptions destroyed much of the town and the island’s most-spectacular vegetation. Government activities were subsequently relocated to Brades Estate (usually called Brades) and neighbouring areas, in the northwestern part of the island. 

The de facto capital is thus in and around Brades. Sighted and named by
Christopher Columbus in 1493, Montserrat is a rich admixture of African, North American, and European influences. Its physical and human landscapes have been battered but not obliterated by the series of natural disasters that beset the island. Area 40 square miles (103 square km). Pop. (2001) 4,491; (2011) 4,922.


Tourism and agriculture were formerly the main economic activities. The damage caused by Hurricane Hugo and the volcanic activity of the 1990s devastated the economy, which virtually collapsed when Plymouth, the main commercial centre, was abandoned in 1995–96. Montserrat has since relied heavily on British and Canadian aid to build a new transportation infrastructure and provide services. 

The largest sources of employment in the early 21st century were public services and construction. Montserrat’s currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, is issued by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (headquartered in Saint Kitts and Nevis), which also regulates rates of credit and foreign exchange.

The eruptions damaged or made inaccessible most of the island’s agricultural land, but some potatoes, onions, and other vegetables are still produced for the domestic market. (A further significant eruption in 2003 destroyed additional land then under cultivation.) In the early 20th century Sea Island cotton was Montserrat’s major export; however, production subsequently declined, and from the 1970s the government’s attempts to revive the industry largely failed. 

Until the 1990s most workers in the Plymouth area were employed in services (notably tourism) and trade, light manufacturing (food processing, plastic bags, textiles, automotive and electronic components), and construction (mainly building tourist facilities and retirement housing). Most of the island’s tourists were long-term visitors such as North American retirees intent on escaping cold winters.

After the closure of the port at Plymouth in 1997, a new facility was constructed at Little Bay, on the northwest coast of the island. W.H. Bramble Airport, on the east coast, was destroyed by the volcanic activity and also closed in 1997; John A. Osborne Airport, which opened in 2005 in the north-central part of the island, provides air service to regional destinations. 

The nearest international airport is in Antigua, to which Montserrat is linked via helicopter service and a ferry terminal at Little Bay. Since the disastrous period of volcanic activity, the road network has been restricted to the northern third of the island. Montserrat is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Government and society
Montserrat is an internally self-governing overseas territory within the Commonwealth. The British monarch is the head of state, represented by an appointed governor. The most-recent constitution was promulgated on September 1, 2011, and came into force later that month, on September 27. 

It provides for an executive branch, consisting of a premier and an Executive Council, and a unicameral legislature called the Legislative Assembly. The governor appoints the premier, who is an elected member of the nine-seat Legislative Assembly and is usually the head of the majority party. 

The Executive Council includes four official members—the governor, the premier, and three ministers—and members of the Legislative Assembly are popularly elected at large for five-year terms. In addition, the attorney general and the finance secretary serve as ex officio members of both the Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly. 

The superior court of record is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in Saint Lucia. Notable political parties in Montserrat have included the New People’s Liberation Movement, the National Progressive Party, the Movement for Change and Prosperity, and the Montserrat Democratic Party.