Like most of the islands in the Caribbean, St. Lucia was inhabited long before the Europeans arrived. Arawak Indians settled in St. Lucia about 2,000 years ago, then the second wave of settlers were the warlike Carib Indians who had pretty much removed the Arawaks by 800AD. They called the island "Hewanorra". The island was not referred to as St. Lucia until the late 1500's.
Soufriere, the first official settlement was established by the French in 1746. Over the next half-century they built more towns and sugar plantations and prospered with cheap, imported slave labor. The abolition of slavery in 1838 by the English Parliament was the beginning of the end for the sugar industry in St. Lucia. Desite labour arriving from India in the 1880s to allevite chronic agricultural labour shortage, the overall decline couldn’t be stopped and the sugar industry had totally disappeard by the early 1960s.
St. Lucia became fully independent on February 22, 1979, after the Second World War. It remains a member of the British Commonwealth.
It was long believed that Columbus had discovered St. Lucia in 1502, but recent evidence suggests that he merely sailed close by- thus leaving the history of European discovery in question. Some people suggest the actual discoverer was Juan de la Cosa, a lesser-known explorer who had served at one time as Columbus' navigator. There are some indications that de la Cosa may have discovered the island in 1499, although there is also evidence suggesting that he didn't find the island until 1504.
Whichever seems the most likely, there was no European presence established on the island until its settlement in the 1550s by the notorious buccaneer Francois le Clerc, a.k.a. Jambe de Bois, or Wooden Leg. Peg-Leg le Clerc set up a little base on Pigeon Island, from where he would prey upon unwitting and treasure-laden Spanish galleons. In around 1600, the Dutch arrived, establishing a fortified base at Vieux Fort.
The first attempt at colonisation occurred just a few years later, in 1605. An unfortunate party of English colonists, heading to Guyana on a ship named Olive Branch, landed on St. Lucia after having been blown off course. In all, sixty-seven colonists waded ashore, where they purchased land and huts from the resident Caribs. After a month, the party had been reduced to only nineteen, and those were soon forced to flee from the Caribs in a canoe. A few decades later, in 1639, a second party of English colonists under Sir Thomas Warner also failed in their settlement attempt.
By mid-century the French had arrived having"purchased" the island for the French West India Company. Needless to say, the persevering British were less than enchanted with this idea, and Anglo-French rivalry for the island continued for more than a century and a half. The island's first settlements and towns were all French, beginning with Soufriere in 1746. By 1780, twelve settlements and a large number of sugar plantations had been established. Two years earlier, the British launched their first invasion effort at the "Battle of Cul de Sac” and finally in 1814, after a prolonged series of enormously destructive battles, the island was theirs.
Over the next century St. Lucia settled into the stable democracy and multicultural society that it is today. The country remained under the British crown until it became independent within the British Commonwealth in 1979. Despite the length of British rule, the island's French cultural legacy is still evident.