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Definition: Leeward Islands from Philip's Encyclopedia

Group of islands in the West Indies, the N section of the Lesser Antilles; it includes the US and British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, and St Martin. The islands are volcanic with a warm climate and tropical vegetation. Agriculture and tourism dominate the economy. Crops include fruits, sugar, cotton, and coffee. See West Indies map

Summary Article: Leeward Islands
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(lō'Әrd, lyō'–, lē'–), northern group of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, extending SE from Puerto Rico to the Windward Islands. The principal islands are the American Virgin Islands; the French island and overseas dept. of Guadeloupe and its dependencies; the Dutch islands of St. Eustatius and Saba; the Dutch and French St. Martin; the islands of the independent states of St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda; and the islands of the British dependent territories of Anguilla, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands. Largely volcanic in origin, the Leewards have lush, subtropical vegetation, rich soil, and abundant rainfall. The warm, delightful climate is tempered by the surrounding water so that there is little variation in temperature. Most of the islands are popular tourist destinations. Products are mostly agricultural—fruits, vegetables, sugar, cotton, coffee, and tobacco.

Columbus first sighted the Leeward Islands in 1493, but settlement began only after the British arrived in the 17th cent. Sir Thomas Warner, sent to St. Kitts in 1623, was made governor-general of the yet uncolonized neighboring islands (Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, and Barbuda), and in the same year the Frenchman Pierre Bélain d'Esnambuc also established a colony on St. Kitts. By 1632, when the English had settled the neighboring islands, the sharp, three-way colonial conflict of England, France, and Spain had begun. The Spanish were forced from the struggle, but for nearly two centuries the islands were pawns in the Anglo-French worldwide wars. They changed hands with each fresh attack by British or French forces and were reshuffled in ownership whenever a new treaty was signed. Their final disposition did not come until the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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