The Original People
The recorded history of Grenada dates back to the early 1600's. The original people, subsistence agriculturalists, are thought to have come by canoe from the Orinoco Basin in what is now Venezuela in the first century AD. The Arawak people followed in the sixth century, who named the island Ciboney. The next wave of immigrants were the 'Caribs', who arrived in the fifteenth century and conquered the Arawak nation and renamed the place Camerhogne. European history has described the Caribs as 'cannibals' but there is no proof that this was the case. Their correct historical name is the Kalinago. Christopher Columbus sailed by on the Santa Maria and gave the name Concepcion, in honour of the Madonna. This is reflected on the coat of arms with a Madonna lily. The area is still sometimes referred to as the "West Indies"; a legacy of Columbus thinking he was on his way to India!
The French arrived in the early 1600's and after being fought off on numerous occasions by the Caribs they made a violent entrance by almost wiping out the entire Amerindian population. Sauteurs ('Leapers' in French), in St.Patrick's is renowned to be where the last of the Carib people leapt to their death rather than be enslaved by the French. Some Carib people, however, did live on and intermingled with the incoming African population, forming Maroon societies in some of the most inaccesible areas of Grenada.
As the enslavement of the Caribs did not work out for the French, nor European indentured labour, they turned to Africa for their free labour. African people were captured in West Africa and brought to Grenada as in the entire region in the infamous slave trade and forced to work in brutal and degrading conditions. They began to arrive in Grenada soon after the establishment of French rule.
There was a power struggle between the French and the British over a period of years. In 1762 the French surrendered to a British squadron and Grenada remained under British control until the French recaptured it in 1779. However the Treaty of Versailles 1783 handed it back (including Carriacou and Petite Martinique) to the British. In 1795/6 the Fedon rebellion occurred which almost led to emancipation at that time.
The Fedon Rebellion
Julien Fedon, a French-African planter allied with other 'free coloured' and slaves to overthrow the British. The French agreed to free all slaves at that time. The fact that Fedon allied with the slaves in Grenada shows that the underlying cause of the armed struggle that began in 1795 was the injustices of the slave system, not just a French-British conflict which is often put forward. Fedon, after 15 months of struggle almost succeeded in his task, but a large British force attacked from outside and eventually overcame the rebels.