St. Vincent was first settled by the Ciboney from South America around 5000 B.C. In about the 3rd century A.D., the Ciboney were succeeded by the Arawaks, who, in turn, were overpowered by the Caribs, a warlike people who came north from South America in the 14th century.

 Europeans began to settle in the Caribbean in the 16th century, but the Caribs protected St. Vincent from European colonization until the 18th century. The Caribs were, however, more welcoming to Africans. In 1675, a Dutch ship laden with slaves foundered off the coast. The Caribs allowed the surviving Africans to stay on the island. Many of the Africans married Carib people. Word spread of an island haven for escaped slaves. Other escapees arrived, intermarried with the Caribs and created a people called the Garifuna, or "Black Caribs." Eventually, tension developed between the Amerindian "Yellow Caribs" and "Black Caribs," causing a division of the island: the Yellow Caribs settled in the west and the Black Caribs in the east.

Fearing domination by the Black Caribs, the Yellow Caribs allowed the French to build settlements in 1719. The French sent missionaries among the Black Caribs and eventually established peaceful relations with both Carib peoples. Between 1763 and 1783, Great Britain and France competed for control of the island. In 1782, the Treaty of Versailles gave possession of St. Vincent to the British. The British established sugar plantations and brought Africans to the island to work as slaves.

 The French encouraged the Black Caribs to oppose British settlement. In 1797, the Black Carib tribes, united under Chief Chatoyer, drove the British down the western coast toward Kingstown, but when Chatoyer was killed, the Black Caribs were defeated. To prevent further resistance, the British deported more than 5,000 Black Caribs and Africans-most of the population-to the Honduran island of Roatán. The remaining Caribs were moved to settlements in the northern part of St. Vincent, where their descendants still live.

  Did you know?
The descendants of people deported from St. Vincent by the English, known as the Garifuna, still live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and other areas of Central America, where they maintain a distinct cultural identity.
In 1812, an eruption of La Soufrière destroyed crops and buildings. After slavery was abolished in 1834, plantation owners brought in East Indians as indentured labourers. During the 19th century, many Portuguese people established themselves as merchants and shopkeepers on the island. A hurricane in 1898 damaged farmland, and a massive eruption of La Soufrière in 1902 destroyed farms and killed 2,000 people.

 During the early 20th century, St. Vincent remained under British rule, but gained increasing control over its own affairs. In 1925, a Legislative Council was established, and universal adult suffrage was instituted in 1951. From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the West Indies Federation. In 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines gained full independence within the British Commonwealth. Since 1979, the government in the islands has been stable. The New Democratic Party, led by The Right Honourable James F. Mitchell, has held power since 1984.