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french: Îles-Sous-le-Vent , image_name = , image_caption = ''Political'' Leeward Islands. Clockwise:
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda (, ) is a sovereign country in the West Indies. It lies at the juncture of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the Leeward Islands part of the Lesser Antilles, at 17°N latitude. The country consists of two maj ...
,
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
,
Saint kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis (), officially the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country and microstate consisting of the two islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, both located in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands chain of ...
. , image_alt = , locator_map = , location =
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lanmè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico ...

North Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximately 20% of Earth's surface and about 29% of its water surface area. It is known to separate the " Old World" of Africa, Europe a ...
, coordinates = , area_km2 = , total_islands = 30+ , major_islands =
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda (, ) is a sovereign country in the West Indies. It lies at the juncture of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the Leeward Islands part of the Lesser Antilles, at 17°N latitude. The country consists of two maj ...

Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...

Montserrat Montserrat ( ) is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. It is part of the Leeward Islands, the northern portion of the Lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies. Montserrat is about long and wide, with roughly of coastline. It is n ...

Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis (), officially the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country and microstate consisting of the two islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, both located in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands chain of ...

Saint Martin
Virgin Islands The Virgin Islands ( es, Islas Vírgenes) are an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. They are geologically and biogeographically the easternmost part of the Greater Antilles, the northern islands belonging to the Puerto Rico Trench and St. Croi ...
, highest_mount = La Grande Soufrière,
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
, elevation_m = 1,467 , country =
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda (, ) is a sovereign country in the West Indies. It lies at the juncture of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the Leeward Islands part of the Lesser Antilles, at 17°N latitude. The country consists of two maj ...
, country_largest_city = St. John's , country1 =
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
, country1_largest_city = Les Abymes , country2 =
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis (), officially the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country and microstate consisting of the two islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, both located in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands chain of ...
, country2_largest_city =
Basseterre Basseterre (; Saint Kitts Creole: ''Basterre'') is the capital and largest city of Saint Kitts and Nevis with an estimated population of 14,000 in 2018. Geographically, the Basseterre port is located at , on the south western coast of Saint Ki ...
, country3 =
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten () is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. With a population of 41,486 as of January 2019 on an area of , it encompasses the southern 44% of the divided island of Saint Martin, while the north ...
, country3_largest_city = Philipsburg , density_km2 = , population = +700,000 , ethnic_groups = The Leeward Islands () are a group of islands situated where the northeastern
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lanmè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico ...
meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the
Virgin Islands The Virgin Islands ( es, Islas Vírgenes) are an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. They are geologically and biogeographically the easternmost part of the Greater Antilles, the northern islands belonging to the Puerto Rico Trench and St. Croi ...
east of
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a Caribbean island and unincorporated ...
, they extend southeast to
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
and its dependencies. In English, the term ''Leeward Islands'' refers to the northern islands of the
Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most of them are part of a long, partially volcanic island arc betw ...
chain. The more southerly part of this chain, starting with
Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago: ; french: Dominique; Dominican Creole French: ), officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the Caribbean. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is geographical ...
, is called the
Windward Islands french: Îles du Vent , image_name = , image_caption = ''Political'' Windward Islands. Clockwise: Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. , image_alt = , locator_map = , location = Caribbean Sea Nort ...
. Dominica was originally considered a part of the Leeward Islands, but was transferred from the
British Leeward Islands The British Leeward Islands was a British colony from 1671 to 1958, consisting of the English (later British) overseas possessions in the Leeward Islands. It ceased to exist from 1816 to 1833, during which time it was split into two separate ...
to the
British Windward Islands The British Windward Islands was an administrative grouping of British colonies in the Windward Islands of the West Indies, existing from 1833 until 31 December 1959 and consisting of the islands of Grenada, St Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grena ...
in 1940.


Origin of the name

The name of this island group, ''Leeward Islands'', dates from previous centuries, when
sailing ship A sailing ship is a sea-going vessel that uses sails mounted on masts to harness the power of wind and propel the vessel. There is a variety of sail plans that propel sailing ships, employing square-rigged or fore-and-aft sails. Some ships c ...
s were the sole form of transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. In sailing terminology, ' windward' means towards the source of the wind (upwind), while '
leeward Windward () and leeward () are terms used to describe the direction of the wind. Windward is ''upwind'' from the point of reference, i.e. towards the direction from which the wind is coming; leeward is ''downwind'' from the point of reference ...
' is the opposite direction (downwind). In the
West Indies The West Indies is a subregion of North America, surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that includes 13 independent island countries and 18 dependencies and other territories in three major archipelagos: the Greater A ...
, the prevailing winds, known as the trade winds, blow predominantly out of the northeast. Therefore, a sailing vessel departing from the British Gold Coast and the Gulf of Guinea, driven by the trade winds, would normally first encounter Dominica and Martinique, islands most to windward, in their west-northwesterly heading to the final destinations in the
Caribbean The Caribbean (, ) ( es, El Caribe; french: la Caraïbe; ht, Karayib; nl, De Caraïben) is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and some bordering both the Caribbean S ...
,
Central America Central America ( es, América Central or ) is a subregion of the Americas. Its boundaries are defined as bordering the United States to the north, Colombia to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ce ...
, and
Northern America Northern America is the northernmost subregion of North America. The boundaries may be drawn slightly differently. In one definition, it lies directly north of Middle America (including the Caribbean and Central America).Gonzalez, Joseph. 20 ...
. This location, Dominica and Martinique, becomes the rough dividing line between the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. The early Spanish colonizers called
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a Caribbean island and unincorporated ...
and the islands to the west ''Sotavento'', meaning 'leeward'. The islands to the south and east of Puerto Rico were then called ''Islas de Barlovento'', meaning 'windward islands'. When the British gained control of many of the
Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most of them are part of a long, partially volcanic island arc betw ...
, they designated
Antigua Antigua ( ), also known as Waladli or Wadadli by the native population, is an island in the Lesser Antilles. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbu ...
,
Montserrat Montserrat ( ) is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. It is part of the Leeward Islands, the northern portion of the Lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies. Montserrat is about long and wide, with roughly of coastline. It is n ...
and the islands to the north as the 'Leeward Islands'.
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
and the islands to the south were designated as the 'Windward Islands'. Later on, all islands north of
Martinique Martinique ( , ; gcf, label= Martinican Creole, Matinik or ; Kalinago: or ) is an island and an overseas department/region and single territorial collectivity of France. An integral part of the French Republic, Martinique is located in ...
became known as the Leeward Islands.
Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago: ; french: Dominique; Dominican Creole French: ), officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the Caribbean. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is geographical ...
was transferred to the
British Windward Islands The British Windward Islands was an administrative grouping of British colonies in the Windward Islands of the West Indies, existing from 1833 until 31 December 1959 and consisting of the islands of Grenada, St Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grena ...
in 1940, and is now considered to be part of the
Windward Islands french: Îles du Vent , image_name = , image_caption = ''Political'' Windward Islands. Clockwise: Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. , image_alt = , locator_map = , location = Caribbean Sea Nort ...
. However, even in modern usage in languages other than English, notably, Dutch, French, and Spanish, all of the Lesser Antilles from the
Virgin Islands The Virgin Islands ( es, Islas Vírgenes) are an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. They are geologically and biogeographically the easternmost part of the Greater Antilles, the northern islands belonging to the Puerto Rico Trench and St. Croi ...
to
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago (, ), officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is the southernmost island country in the Caribbean. Consisting of the main islands Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous much smaller islands, it is situated south of ...
are known as 'the Windward Islands' (''Bovenwindse Eilanden'' in Dutch, ''Îles du Vent'' in French, and ''Islas de Barlovento'' in Spanish). The ABC islands and the other islands along the Venezuelan coast, known in English as the
Leeward Antilles The Leeward Antilles ( nl, Benedenwindse Eilanden) are a chain of islands in the Caribbean – specifically, the southerly islands of the Lesser Antilles (and, in turn, the Antilles and the West Indies) along the southeastern fringe of the ...
, are known in languages other than English as 'the Leeward Islands'. According to the
Fijian language Fijian (') is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family spoken by some 350,000–450,000 ethnic Fijians as a native language. The 2013 Constitution established Fijian as an official language of Fiji, along with English and Fij ...
dictionary, published in 1872, it is stated that the Leeward Islands were called "Ra" during that time.


Geography

The islands are affected by active
volcanism Volcanism, vulcanism or volcanicity is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma) onto the surface of the Earth or a solid-surface planet or moon, where lava, pyroclastics, and volcanic gases erupt through a break in the surface called ...
, and notable eruptions have occurred in
Montserrat Montserrat ( ) is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. It is part of the Leeward Islands, the northern portion of the Lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies. Montserrat is about long and wide, with roughly of coastline. It is n ...
in the 1990s and in 2009 to 2010. At , the highest point is La Grande Soufrière in
Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (; ; gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Gwadloup, ) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands— Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the t ...
.


History

The Caribs, after whom the
Caribbean The Caribbean (, ) ( es, El Caribe; french: la Caraïbe; ht, Karayib; nl, De Caraïben) is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and some bordering both the Caribbean S ...
is named, are believed to have migrated from the Orinoco River area in Venezuela in
South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere at the northern tip of the continent. It can also be described as the south ...
to settle in the Caribbean islands about 1200 AD, according to
carbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was de ...
. Over the century leading up to Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Caribs mostly displaced the Maipurean-speaking Taínos, who settled the island chains earlier in history, by warfare, extermination and assimilation. The islands were among the first parts of the Americas to fall under the control of the
Spanish Empire The Spanish Empire ( es, link=no, Imperio español), also known as the Hispanic Monarchy ( es, link=no, Monarquía Hispánica) or the Catholic Monarchy ( es, link=no, Monarquía Católica) was a colonial empire governed by Spain and its prede ...
. European contact commenced with
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, link=no, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was a ...
's second voyage; many of the islands' names originate from this period: Montserrat was named in honour of Santa Maria de Montserrat (Our Lady of Montserrat), after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, the national shrine of Catalonia. 'Mont serrat' in Catalan means ' saw mountain', referring to the serrated appearance of the mountain range.


British colony of the Leeward Islands

The Leeward Islands became a British colony in 1671, with William Stapleton as its first governor. Although comparatively much smaller than the surrounding islands in the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands posed the most significant rebellion to the British Stamp Act, though it was decidedly less severe in comparison to that of the mainland North American colonies. In 1660, there were about 8,000 white settlers and approximately 2,000 African slaves in the Leeward Islands. However, that ratio narrowed over succeeding years. In 1678, there were 10,408 white settlers and 8,449 black slaves. By 1708, there was a huge disparity between the number of white settlers, which had declined to 7,311, while the number of black slaves was estimated at 23,500. In 1816, the colony as a federation of islands was dissolved, and the individual islands were ruled individually. However, the colony of the Leeward Islands was re-established in 1833.


List of notable islands in the Leeward Islands

There are two countries and eleven territories in the Leeward Islands. From the northwest to the southeast, the main islands are: * Spanish (Puerto Rican) Islands (
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a Caribbean island and unincorporated ...
) ** (
Municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. The term ''municipality'' may also mean the go ...
of
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a Caribbean island and unincorporated ...
) ** (
Municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. The term ''municipality'' may also mean the go ...
of
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a Caribbean island and unincorporated ...
) * (
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territorie ...
) ** Saint Thomas ** Saint John **
Saint Croix Saint Croix; nl, Sint-Kruis; french: link=no, Sainte-Croix; Danish and no, Sankt Croix, Taino: ''Ay Ay'' ( ) is an island in the Caribbean Sea, and a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorp ...
** Water Island * (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
) ** Jost Van Dyke ** Tortola **
Virgin Gorda Virgin Gorda () is the third-largest island (after Tortola and Anegada) and second-most populous of the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Geography Located at about 18 degrees, 48 minutes North, and 64 degrees, 30 minutes West, it covers an area ...
** Anegada * (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
) * Saint Martin Island ** Saint Martin (
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area ...
) ** (
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Nethe ...
) * (
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area ...
) * (
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Nethe ...
) * (
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Nethe ...
) * ** ** * **
Barbuda Barbuda (), is an island located in the eastern Caribbean forming part of the sovereign state of Antigua and Barbuda. It is located north of the island of Antigua and is part of the Leeward Islands of the West Indies. The island is a popula ...
**
Antigua Antigua ( ), also known as Waladli or Wadadli by the native population, is an island in the Lesser Antilles. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbu ...
** Redonda — uninhabited * (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
) * (
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area ...
) **
La Désirade La Désirade is an island in the French West Indies, in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. It forms part of Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France. History Archaeological evidence has been discovered that suggests that an Amerindian p ...
( dependency of Guadeloupe) — literally 'The Desired', also called La DeseadaThe American Universal Geography, Jedidiah Morse, 7ed. v1, Charlestown, 1819. **
Îles des Saintes The Îles des Saintes (; "Islands of the Female Saints"), also known as Les Saintes, is a group of small islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France. It is part of the Canton of Trois-Rivières and is divided in ...
(dependency of Guadeloupe) ** Marie-Galante (dependency of Guadeloupe)


See also

*
British Leeward Islands The British Leeward Islands was a British colony from 1671 to 1958, consisting of the English (later British) overseas possessions in the Leeward Islands. It ceased to exist from 1816 to 1833, during which time it was split into two separate ...
*
Leeward Antilles The Leeward Antilles ( nl, Benedenwindse Eilanden) are a chain of islands in the Caribbean – specifically, the southerly islands of the Lesser Antilles (and, in turn, the Antilles and the West Indies) along the southeastern fringe of the ...
* Leeward Islands Cricket Association * Leeward Islands cricket team *
Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most of them are part of a long, partially volcanic island arc betw ...
* ** ** * Southern Caribbean *
Windward Islands french: Îles du Vent , image_name = , image_caption = ''Political'' Windward Islands. Clockwise: Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. , image_alt = , locator_map = , location = Caribbean Sea Nort ...


References


Further reading

* Jeppe Mulich. 2020.
In a Sea of Empires: Networks and Crossings in the Revolutionary Caribbean
'. Cambridge University Press.


External links


Digital Library of the Caribbean−dloc.org: "The Leeward Islands Gazette"
freely−openly available, with full page images and searchable text
Digital Library of the Caribbean−dloc.org: "Antigua, Montserrat and Virgin Islands Gazette"
openly−freely available, with searchable text and full page images {{Authority control * Archipelagoes of the Caribbean Sea