Island of the Windward Islands, West Indies, and overseas department of France. Area: 436 sq mi (1,128 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 406,000. Capital: Fort-de-France. It is 50 mi (80 km) long and 22 mi (35 km) wide and is largely mountainous; its highest point, Mount Pelée, is an active volcano. Tourism is the basis of its economy. Carib Indians, who had ousted earlier Arawak inhabitants, resided on the island when Christopher Columbus visited it in 1502. In 1635 a Frenchman established a colony there, and in 1674 it passed to the French crown. The British captured and held the island from 1762 to 1763 and occupied it again during the Napoleonic Wars, but each time it was returned to France. Made a department of France in 1946, it remained under French administration despite a communist-led independence movement in the 1970s. In the last decades of the 20th century, Martinique and other French overseas possessions achieved greater autonomy but stopped short of independence.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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