Guadeloupe is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. Discovered and named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his second trip to the Americas, it was annexed by the French in 1635 and spent the next two centuries seesawing between French, British and (briefly) Swedish ownership, before being ceded finally to the French in 1815. Columbus discovered the pineapple on Guadeloupe, although it was also grown elsewhere in the Caribbean, but for years the island’s main export was sugar cane, grown on the plantations of wealthy French settlers. Slavery was abolished in 1848 on initiation of the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.
Today Guadeloupe has a population of 400,000 and remains part of France and therefore the European Union. Its main industries are tourism and agriculture: sugar cane is still farmed, but bananas now account for around 50% of exports. Culturally, music and dance in Guadeloupe is very popular, and the island’s most famous literary export is the 1960 Nobel Prize-winning poet Saint-John Perse.