This port has a Deep Natural Harbor
Fertile Soil (Sugar)
Deep Natural Harbor
St. John's is the capital of the island of Antigua. The high rocky coast is indented by many bays and arms of the sea, several of which form excellent harbours. The surface is comparatively flat, and there is no central range of mountains as in most other Caribbean islands, but among the hills in the southwest an elevation of 1,319 feet (402 m) feet is attained on Boggy Peak. Owing to the absence of rivers, the paucity of springs, and the almost complete deforestation, Antigua is subject to frequent droughts, and although the average rainfall is 1158 mm (45.6 inches), the variations from year to year are great.
The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. This group paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from Venezuela, ejected by the Caribs--another people indigenous to the area. Arawaks introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda, raising, among other crops, the famous Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated various other foods including:
- Sweet potatoes (White with firmer flesh than the bright orange "sweet potato" used in the United States.)
Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still play an important role in Antiguan cuisine. For example, a popular Antiguan dish, dukuna (DOO-koo-NAH) is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. In addition, one of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi (FOON-ji), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.
The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about 1100 A.D. Those who remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Carib's superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West Indies--enslaving some, and cannibalizing others.
The Catholic Encyclopedia does make it clear that the European invaders had some difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups in existence at the time may be much more varied and numerous than the two mentioned in this Article.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, European and African diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually destroyed the vast majority of the Caribbean's native population. No researcher has conclusively proven any of these causes as the real reason for the destruction of West Indian natives. In fact, some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of native deaths while in servitude. Others believe that the reportedly abundant, but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to severe malnutrition of the "Indians" who were used to a diet fortified with protein from sea-life.
The indigenous West Indians made excellent sea vessels that they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks populated much of South American and the Caribbean Islands. Relatives of the Antiguan Arawaks and Caribs still live in various countries in South America, notably Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The smaller remaining native populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage.
According to the AntiguaNice web site, Christopher Columbus supposedly named the island "Antigua" in 1493 in honor of the Santa Maria La Antigua Cathedral in Seville. Unfortunately, this data seems to be inaccurate since this cathedral actually exists in Castilla y León, Spain. A common practice for Spanish explorers was to name newly "discovered" areas after Catholic saints. San Juan in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, Santa Barbara in the United States and others follow the same trend.
In 1632, a group of English colonists left St. Kitts to settle in Antigua. Under Edward Warner, their leader, they grew cash crops of tobacco, ginger, indigo and sugar.
Sugar became Antigua's main crop from about 1674, when Christopher Codrington settled at Betty's Hope Estate. He came from Barbados, bringing the latest sugar technology with him. Betty's Hope, Antigua's first full-scale sugar plantation, was so successful that other planters turned from tobacco to sugar. This resulted in a huge increase of slaves, as sugar requires so much labor.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, many West Indian colonists initially tried to use Indians and whites as slaves. Unfortunately, these groups succumbed very easily to disease and/or malnutrition, and died by the thousands. The African slaves had the misfortune of adapting well to the new environment; and thus became the number one choice of "unpaid labor." In fact, the slaves thrived physically and also provided medical services, and skilled labor, such as carpentry for their slave masters.
Today, collectors prize the uniquely designed "colonial" furniture created by West Indian slaves. Many of these works feature what are now "traditional" motifs in slave-made West Indian furniture. These details include pineapples, fish and stylized serpents. The popular decorating magazine, Veranda, features a fascinating article on this subject; peppered with interesting photographs of the uniquely West Indian furnishings.
By 1736, so many slaves had been brought in from Africa that their conditions were crowded and open to unrest. A slave called "Prince Klaas" (whose real name was Count) planned an uprising in which the whites would be massacred, but the plot was discovered and put down. Prince Klaas and four other accomplices were caught and executed by the breaking wheel. Six other slaves were hung in chains and starved to death, and another fifty-eight were burned at the stake. Ironically, the location of this torture and execution is now the Antiguan Recreation Ground.
Lord Horatio Nelson
Nelson's dockyard was started in 1725, to provide a base for a squadron of British ships whose main function was to patrol West Indies and thus maintain Britain's sea power.
Lord Nelson was Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands from 1784 to 1787 on H.M.S. Boreas. During his tenure, he tried to enforce the Navigation Acts. These acts prohibited trade with the newly formed United States of America. Most of the merchants in Antigua depended upon American trade, so many of them despised Lord Nelson. As a result, he was unable to get a promotion for some time after his stint on the island.
Conversely, the British considered Nelson a hero. The following quote from The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson by Robert Southey sums up his views about the controversial Navigation Acts:
The Americans were at this time trading with our islands, taking advantage of the register of their ships, which had been issued while they were British subjects. Nelson knew that, by the Navigation Act, no foreigners, directly or indirectly, are permitted to carry on any trade with these possessions. He knew, also, that the Americans had made themselves foreigners with regard to England; they had disregarded the ties of blood and language when they acquired the independence which they had been led on to claim, unhappily for themselves before they were fit for it; and he was resolved that they should derive no profit from those ties now. Foreigners they had made themselves, and as foreigners they were to be treated.
Southey then quotes Nelson as saying that "[The Antiguan Colonists] are as great rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it."