From Academic Kids

Nevis is an island in the Caribbean, whose name is derived from an original Spanish name given by Christopher Columbus. With Saint Kitts it constitutes the nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Indeed during the last Ice age the sea level was 200 feet lower and St. Kitts and Nevis were one island with Saint Eustatius (also known as Statia) and Saba.


The most famous Nevis resident was Alexander Hamilton, a famed statesman and founding father of the United States--both the Thirteen Colonies and Nevis were British provinces at the time of the American Revolutionary War.

Another famous association is the wedding of Admiral Nelson, who married Fanny Nisbet, a Nevisian heiress on the island in the 18th century.

Nevis, due to sugar production, was once a dominant source of wealth for Great Britain, so much that the exports from West Indian islands like Nevis were worth more than all of those from the 13 colonies of North America at the time of the American Revolution. The great wealth of the West Indies led to wars between Spain, Britain, and France, and the formation of the United States can be said to be a partial byproduct of these wars whose strategic trade aims often ignored North America.

The original Arawak and Carib inhabitants of the island called it Oualie, meaning "land of beautiful water". Christopher Columbus visited the island on his second voyage on 11 November 1493. He renamed it Santa Marķa de las Nieves, mistaking the cloud cap atop Mt. Nevis for snow. This name has also been linked to a contemporary miraculous summer snow storm in Spain. Nevis was part of the Spanish claim to own all the Caribbean islands which they pursued from 1493 until 1671. Nevertheless it continued to be a popular stop-over point for English and Dutch ships on their way to the North American continent.

Captain Bartholomew Gilbert of Plymouth visited the island in 1603, spending two weeks to cut twenty tons of lignum vitae wood. Gilbert sailed on to Virginia to seek out survivors of the Roanoke settlement in what is now Virginia. He was killed in a skirmish with the local Native Americans.

Captain John Smith visited Nevis also on his way to Virginia in 1607. This was the voyage which founded the Jamestown Settlement, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

In 1620 Captain Anthony Chester visited the island in the vessel Margaret and John and was attacked by two Spanish warships.

On August 30, 1620, James I of England asserted sovereignty over Nevis by giving a Royal Patent for colonisation to the Earl of Carlisle. However actual European settlement did not happen until 1628 when Anthony Hilton moved from nearby Saint Kitts following a murder plot against him. He was accompanied by 80 other settlers soon to be boosted by a further 100 settlers from London who had originally hoped to settle Barbuda. Hilton became the first Governor of Nevis.

Nevis was united with St. Kitts and Anguilla in 1882, and they became an associated state with full internal autonomy in 1967, though Anguilla seceded in 1971. Together Saint Kitts and Nevis became independent in 1983. On August 10, 1998, a referendum on Nevis to separate from St. Kitts had 2427 votes in favour and 1498 against, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed.


Mount Nevis (3,232 feet) is the remnant of an ancient stratovolcano, as is Mt Liamuiga on the sister island of St Kitts. Nevis has a population of nearly 10,000, and maintains one of the highest literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere, at approximately 98%. The capital is Charlestown.

Further reading

  • Michener, James, A. 1989. Caribbean. Secker & Warburg. London. ISBN 0-436-27971-1 (Especially Chap. VIII. "A Wedding on Nevis", pp. 289-318). Some of it is fictionalised, ". . . but everything said about Nelson and his frantic search for a wealthy life is based on fact."de:Nevis

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