(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island’s sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid 19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in July 2003.|
|History||Montserrat was populated by Arawak and Carib people when it was claimed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage for Spain in 1493, naming the island Santa María de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia. The island fell under English control in 1632 when a group of Irish fleeing anti-Roman Catholic sentiment in Saint Kitts and Nevis settled there. The import of slaves, common to most Caribbean islands, mainly coming from West Africa, followed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and an economy based on sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton was established.
In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Montserrat was briefly captured by France. It was returned to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Paris which ended that conflict. A failed slave uprising on 17 March 1798 led to Montserrat later becoming one of only four places in the world that celebrates St Patrick’s Day as a public or bank holiday (the others being the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador). Slavery was finally abolished in Montserrat in 1834, presumably as a result of the general emancipation of slaves within the British Empire in that same year.
Falling sugar prices during the nineteenth century had an adverse effect on the island’s economy and in 1869 the philanthropist Joseph Sturge of Birmingham formed the Montserrat Company to buy sugar estates that were no longer economically viable. The company planted limes starting production of the island’s famous lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the island, with the result that much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.
From 1871 to 1958 Montserrat was administered as part of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, becoming a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962.
With the completion of Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat in 1979, the island attracted world-famous musicians who came to record in the peace and quiet and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat. The last several years of the 20th century, however, brought two events which devastated the island.
In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Montserrat with full force, damaging over 90 percent of the structures on the island. AIR Studios closed, and the tourist trade upon which the island depended was nearly wiped out. Within a few years, however, the island had recovered considerably—only to be struck again by disaster.
In July 1995, Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, rumbled to life and began an eruption which eventually buried the island’s capital, Plymouth, in more than 40 feet (12 m) (12 m) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. This forced more than half of the population to flee the island because they lacked housing. After a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s including one on June 25, 1997 in which 19 people lost their lives, the volcano’s activity in recent years has been confined mostly to infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. However, this ash venting does occasionally extend into the populated areas of the northern and western parts of the island. As an example, on May 20, 2006, the lava dome that had been slowly building collapsed, resulting in an ashfall of about an inch (2.5 cm) in Old Towne and parts of Olveston. There were no injuries or significant property damage.
Long referred to as “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” for both its Irish heritage and its resemblance to coastal Ireland, Montserrat today remains lush and green. A new airport, opened officially by the Princess Royal Princess Anne in February 2005, received its first commercial flights on July 11, 2005, and docking facilities are in place at Little Bay where a new capital is being constructed out of reach of any further volcanic activity.
The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and citizenship was granted in 2002.
|Geography||Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 16 45 N, 62 12 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 102 sq km
land: 102 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.6 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 40 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; little daily or seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: volcanic island, mostly mountainous, with small coastal lowland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: lava dome in English’s Crater (in the Soufriere Hills volcanic complex) estimated at over 930 m (2006)
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 80% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: severe hurricanes (June to November); volcanic eruptions (Soufriere Hills volcano has erupted continuously since 1995)
Environment – current issues: land erosion occurs on slopes that have been cleared for cultivation
Geography – note: the island is entirely volcanic in origin and comprised of three major volcanic centers of differing ages
|Famous Montserratians||Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell, MBE born in Montserrat is well known for his soca song “Hot Hot Hot” which has sold over 4 million copies.
Shabazz Baidoo—A football player of Montserrat descent, plays in Football League 2 for Dagenham & Redbridge.
Tesfaye Bramble—A football player, currently unattached, but who most recently played in the Conference National in England for Stevenage Borough.
Junior Mendes—A professional footballer who has represented Montserrat twice in international games, currently playing for Aldershot Town in the Conference National League.
Jim Allen—A former cricketer who represented the World Series Cricket West Indians.
note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.5% (male 1,159/female 1,108)
15-64 years: 65.9% (male 3,027/female 3,323)
65 years and over: 10.6% (male 521/female 500) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 29.7 years
male: 29.3 years
female: 30.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.038% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.33 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.95 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.86 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.15 years
male: 76.93 years
female: 81.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2008 est.)