History of St Kitts and Nevis 1493 – 1983

Early History

Before its “discovery”, Saint Kitts was previously known as “Liamuiga” meaning “fertile land” and was originally inhabited by the Kalinago (also known as the Island Caribs).
When Christopher Columbus sighted the islands in 1493 he gave the names San Martín to the island now known as Nevis and San Cristóbal to Saint Kitts.
Sir Francis Drake mentions visiting Saint Christopher’s Island in 1585.
Nieves was used by the Spanish, an abbreviation of “Santa Maria de las Nieves”, a reference to its cloud cover resembling snow.

Admiral Nelson

Early History of St Kitts

The first European colonization of St Kitts was by Sir Thomas Warner in 1623. (Warner is still a common surname on the islands).
Sugar was grown on plantations, the workers were enslaved Africans.
The French colonized part of St Kitts in 1624 and the two European powers fought throughout the 17th and 18th century.
St Kitts was the first Caribbean island colonized by the British and both the British and the French used the island as a base for colonialism in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Cannon were first mounted on Brimstone Hill in 1689 by the French. In 1690 the British took control of Brimstone Hill and started the building of the fortress that remains today.
St Kitts was finally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783

Alexander Hamilton St Kitts

Early History of Nevis

The early history of Nevis follows that of St Kitts.
In 1628, Sir Thomas Warner allowed Anthony Hilton to settle Nevis, along with 80 others from St. Kitts. Hilton was a St Kitts plantation owner.
On January 11, 1757 Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America and its first Secretary of the Treasury was born on Nevis.
During the 1780’s Lord Horatio Nelson, Britain’s most famous Admiral used Nevis as a base of operations. He married a Nevisian, Francis Woolward Nisbet in 1787. (Nisbet plantation house is now a hotel).

Modern Day and Independence

From 1816 the islands were administered, along with Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, as a single British colony and from 1871 as part of the Leeward Islands Federation.
In 1883, the governments of St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla were combined into the St. Kitts Assembly.
In 1967 St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla assumed the status of association with the UK.
In 1971 Anguilla formerly separated and became a UK dependency.
In 1976 the Federation of St Christopher and Nevis gained the right to internal self-government.
On the 19th September 1983 the Federation of St Christopher and Nevis achieved independence, choosing to remain a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Pictures of St Kitts from the 1920’s

Historical St Kitts Courthouse 1900s
The Court House, destroyed by fire in 1878
Historical St Kitts waterfront Basseterre 1900s
Basseterre Seafront, looking towards the port.
Historical St Kitts market scene 1920s
Market Day
Historical St Kitts Basseterre view 1900s
Basseterre from Olivees mountain.
Historical St Kitts Berkeley memorial 1920s
Berkeley Memorial Basseterre (note the misspell on the card),

Pictures of St Kitts from the 1930’s

Historical St Kitts Church St Basseterre 1920
Church St 1931
St Kitts 1930s beach scene
Women working on the beach 1931
St Kitts 1930s sugar cane
Sugar Cane factory 1933
St Kitts 1930s Cane Fields
Working the Sugar Cane fields 1932
St Kitts 1930s beach houses
Beach houses 1935
Pier in 1950 St Kitts
Approaching Basseterre from the sea

Pictures from the 1950’s

St Kitts original Trash hut 1950
Original workers housing known as a “Trash Hut” 1950
St Kitts Steel band 1955
St Kitts first Steel Band 1950’s
Sugar Factory 1950 St Kitts
St Kitts Sugar Factory
Timothy Hill before the roads St Kitts
View from Timothy Hill before the roads were built

Pictures from the 1960’s on

Old Pier before port zante St Kitts
Basseterre Harbor Customs House (now The History Museum) before the building of Port Zante
Banana Bay Hotel St Kitts 1960
Banana Bay Hotel 1960
Frigate Bay St Kitts 1980
Frigate Bay South “The Strip” 1980
The very first beach bar on the strip. The “Monkey Bar” opened by Roy Gumbs in the late 1990’s
Before the Marriott St Kitts
The Royal St Kitts hotel, prior to the building of the Marriott in 2003
Old Pier before port zante St Kitts
The Treasury building prior to the construction of Port Zante

If you have any old photos of St Kitts or Nevis you would like to see featured here, please contact us, we will publish with full credit.

Other pages on St Kitts Historical Sites

Full list of our History of St Kitts articles

Share the dream