2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Americas; Countries

Région Martinique
Flag of Martinique
Unofficial region flag Region logo
Map of France highlighting the Region of Martinique
Capital Fort-de-France
Regional President Alfred Marie-Jeanne
( MIM) (since 1998)
Departments Martinique
Arrondissements 4
Cantons 45
Communes 34
Land area1 1,128 km²
Population (Ranked 24th)
 - January 1, 2007 est. 401,000
 - March 8, 1999 census 381,427
 - Density (2007) 355/km²
1 French Land Register data, which exclude lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq. mi. or 247 acres) as well as the estuaries of rivers

Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, having a land area of 1,128 km². It is an overseas department of France. As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is also one of the twenty-six regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. Its official language is French, although almost all of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais). Martinique is pictured on all euro banknotes, on the reverse at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO) next to the denomination.

  • Largest urban areas: Fort-de-France (134,727 inhabitants in 1999, 35% of Martinique's population), Le Lamentin (35,460 in 1999), Sainte-Marie (32,988 in 1999), Le Robert (31,905 in 1999)
  • Population: 381,427 inhabitants after the census of 1999 (359,572 en 1990), estimated 401,000 in January 2007.
  • Population density: 338 inhab./km² (1999, estimated 354 in 2006)
  • Urban population: 42%
  • Life expectancy: 79 years (men) and 82 (women) (2000)
  • Official language: French
  • Principal religion: Roman Catholicism
  • GDP/inhab.: 19,050 in 2006, i.e. US$23,931 at 2006 market exchange rates
  • Total GDP: €7.65 billion in 2006, i.e. US$9.61 billion at 2006 market exchange rates
  • Exports: €606 million (2006)
  • Imports: €2,584 million (2006)
  • Principal suppliers: Metropolitan France, European Union, Latin America
  • Unemployment rate: 23% (2004, (without taking into account "non-declared" revenues). 26,3% in 2000).


The inhabitants of Martinique are French citizens with full political and legal rights.

Martinique sends four deputies to the French National Assembly and two senators to the French Senate.

Map of Martinique
Map of Martinique


  • Surface area: 1,130 km² (length 75 km, width 35 km)
  • Status: overseas department since 19 March 1946, overseas region since 1982
  • Prefectorial office: Fort-de-France (a total of 34 habitations).


Battle of Martinique in 1779 between France and Great Britain
Battle of Martinique in 1779 between France and Great Britain

Before European colonization, Martinique was inhabited by at least two waves of amerindian settlements. Initially, Arawak tribes lived on the island, of which only traces were found. At the time of European colonization, the Carib Indians had taken over the island.

The island was under Britain's command during the Seven Years' War from 1762 to 1763; during the French Revolutionary Wars from 1794 to 1802; and again during the Napoleonic wars from 1809 to 1814. The last British governor was General Sir Charles Wale.

Napoleon's wife, Joséphine, was born in Martinique to a family of the wealthy Creole elite. The ruins of the Habitation de la Pagerie where she spent her childhood can still be visited in Trois-Ilets, across the bay from Fort-de-France, the island's capital.

During the French Revolution, severe conflicts rapidly broke out, developing into civil war. In 1789, a slave rebellion was put down. The following year open war broke out when monarchists, who wanted freedom from revolutionary France, massacred troops faithful to the Parisian revolutionary government. The royalist faction gained the upper hand in 1791 and declared the independence of Martinique followed by refusal to grant rights to the free people of colour. In 1793, the republican-Parisian faction gained support from the revolutionary government in Saint Lucia, which prompted the monarchists to invite British occupation in 1794.

Slavery was banned in 1848. People from India and China were brought to work the sugar cane plantations.

Mount Pelée erupted in 1902, killing 26,000 to 36,000 people and destroying Saint-Pierre.

During World War II the island was controlled by the Vichy regime from 1940-1943; later it was under the Free French Forces.

An important role in the independence movement was played by Aimé Césaire (June 26, 1913 – April 17, 2008), a famous poet and essayist. Martinique was the home of Frantz Fanon ( July 20, 1925 December 6, 1961), an author, essayist, psychoanalyst, and anti-colonialist revolutionary, who was strongly influenced by Césaire.

On November 29, 2007, Martinique experienced an earthquake registering a magnitude of 7.4.



Tropical forest near Fond St-Denis
Tropical forest near Fond St-Denis
Les Salines, wide sand beach at the southern end of the island
Les Salines, wide sand beach at the southern end of the island

The north of the island is mountainous and lushly forested. It features 4 ensembles of dramatic pitons and mornes: the Piton Conil on the extreme North, which dominates the Dominica Channel, the Mount Pelee, an active volcano, the Morne Jacob, and the Pitons du Carbet, an ensemble of 5 beautifully shaped, rainforest covered extinct volcanoes dominating the Bay of Fort de France at 1,196 meters. The most dominating of the island's many beautiful mountains, with 1397 meters, is the infamous volcano Mount Pelée. The volcanic ash has created beautiful grey and black sand beaches in the north (in particular between Anse Ceron and Anse des Gallets), contrasting markedly from the white sands of Les Salines in the south.

The south is more easily traversed, though it still features some impressive geographic features. Because it is easier to travel and because of the many beautiful beaches and food throuout this region, the south receives the bulk of the tourist traffic. The beaches from Pointe de Bout, through Diamant (which features right off the coast the beautiful Roche de Diamant), St. Luce, the town of St. Anne all the way down to Les Salines are very popular.


Historical population

Historical population
24,000 74,000 120,400 152,925 157,805 162,861 167,119 175,863 189,599
203,781 239,130 292,062 320,030 324,832 328,566 359,572 381,427 401,000
Official figures from past censuses and INSEE estimates.


As an overseas département of France, Martinique's culture blends French and Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre (destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée), was often referred to as the Paris of the Lesser Antilles. Following traditional French custom, many businesses close at midday, then reopen later in the afternoon. The official language is French, although many Martinicans speak Martinican Creole, a subdivision of Antillean Creole virtually identical to the varieties spoken in neighbouring British-speaking islands of Saint Lucia and Dominica. Mostly based on French, Martinique's creole also incorporates a few elements of English, Spanish, Portuguese, and African languages. Originally passed down through oral storytelling traditions, it continues to be used more often in speech than in writing. Its use is predominant within friends and the family cell. Though it is normally not to be used in professional situations, it is being increasingly used in the media and by politicians as a way to redeem national identity and by fear from a complete cultural assimilation by mainland France.

Most of Martinique's population is descended from African slaves brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian, Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese elements. Between 5 to 10% of the population is of Eastern Indian (Tamil) origin. The island also boasts a small Syro-Lebanese community, a small but increasing Chinese community, and the "Beke" community, White descendants from the first French and British settlers, which still dominate parts of the Agricultural and Trade sectors. The Beke people (which total around 5,000 people in the island, most of them of aristocratic origin) generally live in mansions on the Atlantic coast of the island (mostly in the François - Cap Est district). In addition to the island population, the island hosts a metropolitan French community, most of which lives on the island on a temporary basis (generally from 3 to 5 years).

There is an estimated 250.000 people of martinican origin living in mainland France, most of them in the Parisian region.

Today, the island enjoys a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean countries. The finest French products are easily available, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain. Studying in the métropole is common for young adults. For the rest of the French, Martinique has been a vacation hotspot for many years, attracting both upper-class and more budget-conscious travelers.

Martinique has a hybrid cuisine, mixing elements of French, African, and Asian traditions. One of its most famous dishes is the Colombo, a unique curry of chicken(curry chicken), meat or fish with vegetables, spiced with a distinctive masala of Bengali or Tamil origins, acidulated with tamarind and often containing wine, coconut milk, and rum. There is also a strong tradition of créole desserts and cakes, often employing pineapple, rum, and a wide range of local ingredients.

Martinique in Popular Culture

  • Martinique was the main setting of the 1944 film To Have and Have Not starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
  • The island is mentioned in the song Uffington wassail by Half Man Half Biscuit.
  • In the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, the characters of Angelique Bouchard Collins, Josette du Pres, and her family are from Martinique.
  • Martinique was also featured in the 1999 remake of " The Thomas Crown Affair," and in the movie " Sugar Cane Alley".
  • It is also mentioned in the Beach Boys hit " Kokomo" with the line "To Martinique, that Montserrat mystique"
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