Brief history of Trinidad and Tobago summarized
An overview of the brief history of Trinidad and Tobago, in an entertaining and summarized way.
Trinidad and Tobago Early
Around 5,000 stone age hunter-gatherers came to Trinidad and Tobago by canoe. Then, around 300 BC, a more advanced people arrived. They grew crops such as cassava and sweet potatoes.
They also made pottery and wove cotton. However, in 1498 Columbus discovered the island. He called it Trinidad and Tobago because he saw three peaks. The first Spanish settlers arrived in 1592 and built a settlement on the site of San José.
In 1687 Spanish monks arrived in Trinidad and Tobago and began converting the Amerindians to Christianity. However, the Amerindians resented Spanish attempts to control them, and in 1699 some rebelled. The Spanish retaliated savagely. Meanwhile, European diseases such as smallpox decimated the Amerindians and by 1800 they were almost extinct.
Beginning in 1783 foreign Catholics, including many French, were invited to settle in Trinidad and Tobago. They were granted land and brought African slaves with them. Large numbers of settlers came to Trinidad and Tobago in the following decades bringing large numbers of slaves.
Some mixed-race European and African immigrants known as people of color also came. Soon so many French settlers arrived that the culture of Trinidad and Tobago became largely French.
In 1796 Spain went to war with Great Britain and in February 1797 the British sent an expedition to Trinidad and Tobago. Vastly outnumbered, the Spanish quickly surrendered. However, the British were generous in victory.
Trinidadians were allowed to keep their property and comply with Spanish law. Unfortunately, the first British Governor, Thomas Picton, was a tyrant who extracted confessions through torture and carried out many executions. He was deposed in 1802.
Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834. However, slaves were apprenticed to their former masters for 6 years. In the event that the apprenticeship of former slaves ended 2 years earlier, in 1838.
After the end of slavery there was a labor shortage which was resolved by importing workers from India. Many never returned to India. Meanwhile, the Trinidadian economy grew with cocoa exports.
Early 20th century
In the early 20th century, Trinidadians began to lobby for home rule. In 1903 a riot broke out over the water charges. The Red House, the seat of government, was burned. In 1913 the British government agreed to allow Trinidad and Tobago an elected assembly. However, it was more than 10 years before it was fulfilled!
Meanwhile, in 1902 oil drilling began in Trinidad and Tobago and in 1910 Trinidad Oilfields Limited was founded. Meanwhile, the workers were organizing and getting nervous. In November 1919, the longshoremen went on strike. The strike turned violent, and the British government sent in troops to restore order.
Meanwhile, the Trinidad Workers’ Association was formed in 1897. In 1925 its president Arthur Cipriani was elected to the legislative council. Cipriani fought for gradual reform, but with the depression of the 1930s he lost influence and more militant voices came to the fore. The 1930s were years of hardship and depression in Trinidad and Tobago, but nationalism was a growing force.
During World War II, the United States leased much of Trinidad and Tobago. On the one hand, they paid high wages, but on the other hand, their often blatant racism irritated the population. In 1945, universal suffrage was granted to everyone over the age of 21, and the first two elections under the new system were held in 1946 and 1950.
Then, in January 1956, the National People’s Movement was formed. It was led by Dr. Eric Williams. In September 1956 the PNP won more votes than any other party and formed a government. They held power for the next 30 years.
Independent Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962. However, the old social order remained and in the late 1960s strikes became more frequent. Finally, in March 1970, the Black Power Movement held demonstrations against racial discrimination.
Banks and businesses were bombed and in April 1970 there was a wave of strikes. Finally, the government declared a state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago, although further elections were held in 1971.
However, in 1973 OPEC raised the price of oil. As an oil-producing country, Trinidad and Tobago benefited greatly. However, in the 1980s, with the drop in oil prices, Trinidad and Tobago’s economy suffered greatly and unemployment increased. However, prosperity returned to Trinidad and Tobago in the 1990s.
Trinidad and Tobago suffered in the 2009 recession and the economy contracted again in 2014-2017. Today, Trinidad and Tobago’s economy relies heavily on oil and gas, although tourism is growing. The current population of Trinidad and Tobago is 1.2 million.
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