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Saint Barthélemy: a former Swedish colony in the Caribbean

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The island of Saint Barthelemy was once an ancient Swedish colony. But today it is a French overseas collectivity located in the Lesser Antilles between Saint-Martin in the north-west and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the south. The island is part of the French Antilles together with Martinique, the French part of the island of Saint-Martin and Guadeloupe and its dependencies.


The community is made up of the main island of Saint Barthelemy (21 sq km) where the capital Gustavia is located, and numerous islets. Among these small islands are Île Chevreau, Coco, île Fourchue, île Frégate, La Tortue, île Le Boulanger, Les Grenadins, Pain de Sucre, île Pelé, île Petit Jean.

Saint Barthelemy is an island of volcanic origin which is surrounded by a coral reef very close to the coast. The highest point on the island is Morne Vitet (286 meters). The main economic activity of the island is tourism. But agriculture and fishing are also practiced.

The island has a population of around ten thousand inhabitants. The island is inhabited today mainly by the descendants of settlers from France. Its population has the particularity of being largely of European origin.

The island of Saint Barthelemy was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his second trip. It was only in the mid-seventeenth century (1648) that the island was permanently occupied by the French. Between 1651 and 1656 the island was ruled by the Knights of Malta, but was later abandoned. Only in 1659 did the French return to occupy it because of the importance of its port.

In 1784 the island was ceded from France to Sweden. The Swedes declare the island a free port making Saint Barthelemy an important trading center in the Antilles. Around 1787 the main village of the island, Le Carénage, was named Gustavia in honor of the king of Sweden. In 1878 the Swedes ceded the island to the French.

The climate of Saint Barthelemy.

  • Area: 21 sqkm.
  • Population: 9,800 (2019 data) (in majority Europeans).
  • State Capital: Gustavia.
  • Language: Official language is French. Used the French Creole.
  • Religion: Catholic.
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Time: UTC -4 hours.



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