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Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis or Saint Kitts–Nevis (nēˈvĭs, nĕvˈĭs), officially Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, island nation (2015 est. pop. 52,000), 120 sq mi (311 sq km), West Indies, in the Leeward Islands. The nation consists of the islands of Saint Kitts, also called Saint Christopher (68 sq mi/176 sq km), Nevis (50 sq mi/130 sq km), and Sombrero (2 sq mi/5.2 sq km). The capital is Basseterre on Saint Kitts. The chief settlement on Nevis is Charlestown, the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. There has been strong sentiment on Nevis for independence from the larger, more populous Saint Kitts, and in a 1998 referendum more than 60% of Nevisian voters approved separation; a two-thirds majority, however, was required.

A narrow strait separates the two larger islands, which are volcanic in origin, mountainous, and renowned for their scenery. The vast majority of the population are descendants of Africans originally brought to the islands as slaves. English is spoken and Anglicanism is the main religion.

Tourism, manufacturing, and a growing offshore financial industry are important to the economy, and cotton and salt are produced. Machinery, food, electronics, beverages, and tobacco are the main exports. Sugar and molasses were also historically important exports, but financial losses led the government to end sugar production and processing in 2005. Machinery, manufactures, food, and fuel are imported. The United States is the main trading partner.

The country is a federal parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1983. There is a unicameral, 14-seat legislature, the National Assembly, whose members serve five-year terms; the government is headed by the prime minister. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor-general, is the head of state. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 parishes. Nevis has its own unicameral legislature and a separate government led by a premier, as well as a large degree of political autonomy with respect to its own internal affairs and the constitutional right to separate from St. Kitts by a two-thirds vote in a referendum.


Saint Kitts and Nevis were visited by Columbus in 1493, but European settlement did not begin until the British arrived on St. Kitts in 1623. French settlers came to the island two years later. Nevis was first settled by the British in 1628. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 granted the islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands (1871–1956) and of the West Indies Federation (1958–62). In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain. Anguilla seceded later that year; it later was placed under direct control of Great Britain and was formally separated from Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1980. In 1983 the two islands gained full independence. Kennedy Simmonds of the People's Action Movement served as prime minister until 1995, when the opposition Labour party won in the general elections and Denzil Douglas became prime minister. Douglas and Labour were returned to power in the 2000, 2004, and 2010 elections, but in 2015 and 2020 the Team Unity coalition, led by Timothy Harris of the People's Labour party, won a majority.
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1. an island in the Caribbean, part of St Kitts-Nevis; the volcanic cone of Nevis Peak, which rises to 1002 m (3287 ft.), lies in the centre of the island. Capital: Charlestown. Pop.: 11 181 (2001. Area: 129 sq. km (50 sq. miles)
2. See Ben Nevis
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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