Leeward Islands

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Leeward Islands

(lo͞o`ərd, lyo͞o`–, lē`–), 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 IslandsVirgin Islands,
group of about 100 small islands, West Indies, E of Puerto Rico. The islands are divided politically between the United States and Great Britain. Although constituting the westernmost part of the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands form a geological unit with
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; the French island and overseas dept. of GuadeloupeGuadeloupe
, overseas department and administrative region of France (2005 est. pop. 449,000), 687 sq mi (1,779 sq km), in the Leeward Islands, West Indies. The department comprises the neighboring islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre (Guadeloupe proper) as well as
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 and its dependencies; the Dutch islands of St. EustatiusSaint Eustatius
, island (1989 pop. 1,861), 8 sq mi (20.7 sq km), a special municipality of the Netherlands, one of the Leeward Islands, West Indies. It was formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles.
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 and SabaSaba
, island (1990 est. pop. 1,100), 5 sq mi (13 sq km), a special municipality of the Netherlands, one of the NW Leeward Islands, West Indies. It was formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles. The rugged island is actually the cone of an extinct volcano rising to c.
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; the Dutch and French St. MartinSaint Martin
, Du. Sint Maarten, island, 37 sq mi (96 sq km), West Indies, one of the Leeward Islands. Since its occupation in 1648 by the Dutch and the French, it has been divided. The northern part (1999 pop.
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; the islands of the independent states of St. Kitts and NevisSaint Kitts and Nevis
or Saint Kitts–Nevis
, officially Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, island nation (2005 est. pop. 39,000), 120 sq mi (311 sq km), West Indies, in the Leeward Islands.
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 and Antigua and BarbudaAntigua and Barbuda
, independent Commonwealth nation (2005 est. pop. 68,700), 171 sq mi (442 sq km), West Indies, in the Leeward Islands. It consists of the island of Antigua (108 sq mi/280 sq km) and two smaller islands, the more sparsely populated Barbuda (62 sq mi/161 sq km)
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; and the islands of the British dependent territories of AnguillaAnguilla
, island and British dependency (2005 est. pop. 13,300) 35 sq mi (91 sq km), West Indies, northernmost of the Leeward Islands. The capital is the town of The Valley. The population, which is mainly of African descent, speaks English, the official language.
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, MontserratMontserrat
, British dependency and island (2011 pop. 4,922), 38 sq mi (98 sq km), West Indies, one of the Leeward Islands. It is a rugged, scenic island of volcanic origin.
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, and the British Virgin Islands. Largely volcanic in origin, the Leewards have lush, subtropical vegetation, rich soil, and abundant rainfall. The warm, delightful climate is tempered by the surrounding water so that there is little variation in temperature. Most of the islands are popular tourist destinations. Products are mostly agricultural—fruits, vegetables, sugar, cotton, coffee, and tobacco.

Columbus first sighted the Leeward Islands in 1493, but settlement began only after the British arrived in the 17th cent. Sir Thomas Warner, sent to St. Kitts in 1623, was made governor-general of the yet uncolonized neighboring islands (Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, and Barbuda), and in the same year the Frenchman Pierre Bélain d'Esnambuc also established a colony on St. Kitts. By 1632, when the English had settled the neighboring islands, the sharp, three-way colonial conflict of England, France, and Spain had begun. The Spanish were forced from the struggle, but for nearly two centuries the islands were pawns in the Anglo-French worldwide wars. They changed hands with each fresh attack by British or French forces and were reshuffled in ownership whenever a new treaty was signed. Their final disposition did not come until the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

Leeward Islands

 

the southern section of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, situated west of 64° W long. Area, approximately 1,200 sq km; elevations to 372 m. Population, 230,000 (1972), mainly Negroes and mulattoes.

The Leeward Islands consist of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire, which belong to the Netherlands, and of Aves, Los Roques, Orchila, Blanquilla, and Los Hermanos, which belong to Venezuela. The larger islands are formed of metamorphic and crystalline rocks overlapped by volcanic and sedimentary rocks, chiefly limestones; the smaller islands are low-lying and coralline. The climate is subequatorial, with a brief rainy season; annual precipitation is 500 to 600 mm. The islands’ vegetation consists chiefly of shrubs and dry forests. Crops include sorghum, sweet potatoes, and bananas; sheep and goats are raised.

The largest city is the port of Willemstad on Curaçao. Curaçao and Aruba have refineries for refining Venezuelan oil; there is pearl diving off Los Roques and Orchila. The islands’ name derives from their position in relation to the northeast trade winds.

E. N. LUKASHOVA

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