Martinique(ˌmɑːtɪˈniːk) is an island department of France, located in the Windward group of islands in the Lesser Antilles, north of St. Lucia, 14 40 N, 61 00 W. Martinique has a total area of 1,100 sq km. Fort-de-France is the capital, with French as the official language, but creole is widely spoken.
Martinique has a population of 436,131, with a life-expectancy of 79.18 years. The island is 85% Roman Catholic, 10.5% Protestant, 0.5% Muslim, 0.5% Hindu, and 3.5% other. The population is 90% African and African-white-Indian mixture, 5% white, 5% East Indian and Chinese. The population has a 97.7% literacy rate.
St. Kitts was the launching pad for the French colonization of Martinique.
Sugar production took off in Martinique after 1654 with the expulsion of the Dutch from Brazil, who were expert in the cultivation and manufacture of sugar. Three hundred Dutchmen immigrated to Martinique. By 1664, sugar production was well established. Sugar production in the French West Indies in 1674 was at 5,350 tons. In 1682, it increased to 7,140 tons. By 1698, production was 13,375 tons.
As sugar cultivation and production took root, the population began to reflect this entrenchment. In 1664, 2,416 black slaves existed and 18 mulattoes, by 1686 Martinique had 11,101 and 314 mulattoes. In 1701, Martinique had a population of 6,961 whites and 23,362 blacks and mulattoes. By 1751, the white population had increased to 12,068 and 65,905 black slaves and 1,413 free mulattoes. In 1776, a population of 11,619 whites, 71,268 slaves, and 2,892 free mulattoes existed.
Colonial Martinique society was divided into a caste structure: At the top was the grand blanc or plantation owners; below, the petits blancs or little whites who were store manager, artisans, and administrative employees; free colored who were mixed race or black. Among the latter group elaborate categories of admixture developed. Social mobility was tied to color. Some of these categories were as follows:
Many of the mixed race class thrived economically. By the 1850s, they owned 1/3 of all plantations and 1/4 of all slaves. They felt superior to the petits blancs and disdain for black slaves. Many of the mix race served in the militia.
The sugar economy began to take a nose dive in Martinique during the 19th Century. Between 1836-1848, Martinique went from producing 25 million kg of sugar to 11.8 million kg. Between 1841-1848, the total value of sugar produced went from 15.6 million Francs to 9.2 million.
The decline of profitability of the sugar industry to France, also lead to the end of slavery. Slavery during the French Revolution was ended. It was revived by Napoleon in 1802. The French government abolished it again in 1817 and finally in 1848.
The talk of emancipation and the Haitian Revolution embolden black slaves to push for independence. On August 30, 1789, an ultimatum was sent to the Governor of Martinique signed "all the Blacks" threatening to burn all plantations and fields. In 1822, a revolt transpired on Martinique. It seemed to have been inspired by the pamphlet The Situation of the Free People of Color In the French West Indies by Bisset. Several individuals were prosecuted and Bisset was exiled. In 1824, a planned revolt was discovered and terminated before it was executed. Martinique had a revolt in 1831, taking inspiration from the Haitian Revolution. The rebels repeated the slogan 'liberty or death.' In 1833 after Christmas, Martinique had another revolt originatiing from Grande Anse district. The rebels received long sentences and some received the death sentences. The situation in Martinique became so tense the governor went ahead and abolish slavery before the Proclamation of 1848.
Martinique changed hands several times between France and Britain. In the Treaty of 1763, Britain ceded control of Martinique to France. Martinique was ceded to France in 1777, after an eight year war with Britain.
CIA Factbook, Martinique