Windward Islands

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Windward Islands,

southern group of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, curving generally southward for c.300 mi (480 km) from the Leeward IslandsLeeward Islands
, northern group of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, extending SE from Puerto Rico to the Windward Islands. The principal islands are the American Virgin Islands; the French island and overseas dept.
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 toward NE Venezuela. Excluding BarbadosBarbados
, island state (2005 est. pop. 279,300), 166 sq mi (430 sq km), in the West Indies. The capital and largest city is Bridgetown. Land, People, and Economy

The island, E of St. Vincent, in the Windward Islands, is the easternmost of the Caribbean islands.
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 and Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago
, officially Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, republic (2005 est. pop. 1,088,000), 1,980 sq mi (5,129 sq km), West Indies. The capital is Port of Spain.
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, which are in the region but are not part of the group, the Windward Islands consist of the French overseas dept. of MartiniqueMartinique
, overseas department and administrative region of France (2005 est. pop. 433,000), 425 sq mi (1,101 sq km), in the Windward Islands, West Indies. Fort-de-France is the capital. The department and the island of Martinique are coextensive.
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 and the former British Windward Islands (c.700 sq mi/1,810 sq km). The former British islands consist of the independent states of DominicaDominica
, officially Commonwealth of Dominica, republic (2005 est. pop. 69,000) consisting of the island of Dominica (290 sq mi/750 sq km), located in the Windward Islands, West Indies. Roseau is the capital and chief port.
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, GrenadaGrenada
, independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations (2005 est. pop. 89,500), 133 sq mi (344 sq km), in the Windward Islands, West Indies. The state includes the island of Grenada (120 sq mi/311 sq km) and the southern half of the archipelago known as the Grenadines, a
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, Saint LuciaSaint Lucia
, island nation (2005 est. pop. 166,000), 238 sq mi (616 sq km), West Indies, one of the Windward Islands. The capital is Castries. Morne Gimie (3,145 ft/959 m high) and the twin pyramidal cones known as the Pitons are the most imposing landmarks.
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, and Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines,
island nation (2005 est. pop. 118,000), 150 sq mi (388 sq km), West Indies, in the Windward Islands. It comprises the island of Saint Vincent (140 sq mi/363 sq km) and about two thirds of the small Grenadine islands to the south.
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.

Of volcanic origin, the islands are generally rugged, mountainous, and well forested, and they have many streams and lakes. With an equable climate, ample rainfall, and rich soil, they produce a variety of tropical agricultural crops for export, including bananas, spices, limes, and cacao. The islands are subject to hurricanes. Although small-scale manufacturing has gained importance, the most substantial change has been the growth of the tourist trade, which constitutes the region's economic mainstay. The deep and sheltered harbors encourage considerable interisland commerce. Fort-de-FranceFort-de-France
, city (1999 pop. 94,049), capital of the French overseas dept. of Martinique, West Indies. It is a popular tourist resort and a free port, exporting mainly bananas, sugar, and rum.
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, on Martinique, and CastriesCastries
, town (1991 pop. 11,147; 1991 metropolitan area pop. 51,994), capital and commercial center of Saint Lucia. Its excellent landlocked harbor is one of the best in the West Indies. Castries was founded by the French in 1650.
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, on Saint Lucia, are the islands' chief cities. The islands are largely inhabited by descendants of Africans, who were brought as slaves during the colonial period. The culture varies from island to island, but the French influence is particularly strong.

For some time after Columbus's exploration of the islands, they were largely ignored by Europeans and left to the indigenous Caribs. In the early 17th cent., colonization was undertaken by the British and the French; settlements and sovereignty overlapped. The long struggle for dominance in the islands was a significant part of the worldwide Anglo-French conflict. Several naval battles were fought there; in 1782, off Saint Lucia, the French Admiral de Grasse was defeated by Admiral Rodney. In the Napoleonic Wars the islands traded hands, and it was only after the close of the conflict that Britain established its dominance over them.

Windward Islands

 

a group of volcanic islands in the West Indies marking the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea; the eastern islands of the Lesser Antilles. Area, approximately 6,000 sq km.; population, more than 1.1 million (1972).

The largest islands are Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Antigua. The islands are the possessions of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. The landscape of the larger islands is primarily mountainous. The volcano Diablotin on Dominica has a maximum elevation of 1,586m. There are active volcanoes. The climate is dominated by tropical trade winds and is humid. Natural vegetation has been almost completely destroyed. There are plantations of sugarcane, citrus fruits, cacao, and bananas. The main cities are Fort-de-France on Martinique and Point-à-Pitre and Basse-Terre on Guadeloupe.