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Guadeloupe (gwädəlo͞opˈ), overseas department and administrative region of France (2015 est. pop. 450,000), 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 Marie-Galante and Îles des Saintes to the south and La Désirade to the east. Saint-Barthélemy (“Saint Barts”) and the French portion of Saint Martin were part of Guadeloupe politically until 2007. Basse-Terre, on the island of the same name, is Guadeloupe's capital; Pointe-à-Pitre, on Grande-Terre, is the chief port and commercial center. The islands have a mild, humid climate and are subject to hurricanes.

Tourism is the major industry, and the majority of people are employed in the service sector. Agriculture and sugar and rum production are also important. Basse-Terre, volcanic in origin (see Soufrière) and extremely rugged, is settled along the coasts and produces bananas, other tropical fruits and vegetables, coffee, cacao, and vanilla beans. Grande-Terre has low limestone cliffs and little rainfall; sugar and rum are its chief products. There also is subsistence farming, livestock raising, and fishing. Additionally, France provides many subsidies and necessities to Guadeloupe.

The population is mainly of African or mixed descent and largely Roman Catholic. French and a Creole patois are spoken. The head of government is a commissioner appointed by France. The legislature consists of a 36-member, popularly elected general council and a regional council.

Sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Guadeloupe was only feebly colonized by the Spanish and was finally abandoned in 1604. In 1635 settlement was begun by the French, who eliminated the native Caribs and imported slaves from Africa for plantation work. By the end of the 17th cent., Guadeloupe was a leading world sugar producer and one of France's most valuable colonies. The islands were hotly contested with the English until they were confirmed as French possessions in 1815. During World War II, Guadeloupe at first adhered to the Vichy regime in France, but an accord with the United States in 1942 led to its support of the Free French. In 1946 the colony of Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France, and in 1974 it became an administrative center. Its deputies sit in the French National Assembly in Paris.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a country in the West Indies; a French possession, since 1946, an overseas department of France. The possession consists of the main island, Guadeloupe; the small islands Marie-Galante, La Désirade, Les Saintes, St. Barthélémy, and Petite-Terre; and the northern part of St. Martin (the southern part belongs to the Netherlands). Area, 1,779 sq km. Population, 323,000 (1969), chiefly Negroes and mulattoes. Official language, French. Religion, Catholic. Administered by a prefect appointed by the French government; it has an elected general council. In the French Parliament, Guadeloupe is represented by three deputies and two senators. Administrative center, Basse-Terre.

Historical survey. In 1674, Guadeloupe was declared the property of the French crown. In 1666, 1691, and 1703 the English attempted to take over Guadeloupe. In 1759 they succeeded in capturing the island, but under the Paris Peace Treaty of 1763, Guadeloupe was returned to France. In 1794 the British again invaded the island. However, the commissioner of the Convention, Victor Hugues, was sent to Guadeloupe, where he declared the Negro population free, armed it, and in 1794 managed to expel the British. Guadeloupe in fact remained an independent republic until 1802, when an expedition dispatched by Napoleon restored the previous colonial system on the island, including slavery (abolished in 1848). In 1805 the French Civil Code was put into force on the island. In 1810 the British recaptured Guadeloupe, but returned it to France in 1816 under the Treaty of Paris.

Colonial dominance led to a one-sided development of Guadeloupe’s economy; only the agricultural branches intended for export developed (sugarcane, bananas, coffee, and cacao). At the end of the 19th century a number of industrial enterprises were built to process agricultural produce, which led to the appearance of an industrial proletariat in Guadeloupe.

During World War II the first communist groups sprang up in Guadeloupe, and in 1958 the Guadeloupe Communist Party (GCP) was founded. The struggle of Guadeloupe’s population to abolish the colonial regime compelled the ruling circles of France to initiate certain reforms. In 1946, Guadeloupe received the status of an overseas department. However, the one-sided character of the economy (France accounts for 75 percent of the exports and 90 percent of the imports) and the peculiarity of the administrative structure promote the preservation of many features of the colonial order in Guadeloupe. The basic demand of progressive forces is that Guadeloupe be granted autonomy.


Economy. Guadeloupe is a backward agrarian country. Twenty-seven percent of the territory is cultivated, 10 percent is pastures and meadows, 31 percent is forest, and other lands make up 32 percent. Principal agricultural crops for export are sugarcane (25,000 hectares [ha], 162,000 tons of unrefined sugar in 1968-1969), bananas (8,000 ha, 180,000 tons), coffee, and cacao. Vanilla and citrus fruits are also grown. Cattle, goats, and hogs are raised. There is fishing, and agricultural produce is processed, mainly for the production of sugar and rum. There are approximately 2,000 km of roads. The main commercial and industrial center and port is Pointe-à-Pitre. Guadeloupe exports bananas, sugar, and rum and imports fuel, equipment, raw materials, and transportation vehicles. The monetary unit is the French franc.

Education. The public education system in Guadeloupe is based on French legislation. Schooling is conducted in French. Children are admitted to primary school at the age of six. Primary school with a five-year period of schooling is considered mandatory, but in 1961 more than 21 percent of the population above 15 years of age was illiterate. The period of education in a complete secondary school (lycée) is seven years and in an incomplete one (college), four years. There are no higher educational institutions. In 1966-67 more than 65,000 pupils attended primary schools, more than 15,000 attended secondary schools, 2,700 people attended vocational training institutions, and 101 persons attended normal school.



an island in the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. Area, 1,703 sq km. Together with adjacent islands it forms Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France. A narrow isthmus connects the two parts of the island, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. Basse-Terre is made of volcanic rock. It has heights of up to 1,467 m (the active volcano Soufrière is the highest peak in the Lesser Antilles). Grande-Terre is a plateau up to 130 m high, made up of Neocene limestones and volcanic tuff. There are almost no permanent rivers, since water seeps into the cracks in the limestones. The climate is tropical, with a trade wind, and hot and humid. Annual precipitation reaches 1,500-2,000 mm. The mountains are covered by a humid, tropical forest (palms, treelike ferns). The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an overseas region of France in the E Caribbean, in the Leeward Islands, formed by the islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre and five dependencies. Capital: Basse-Terre. Pop.: 443 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1780 sq. km (687 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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