Latin America & Caribbean

Montserrat profile

Map of Montserrat

The self-governing British overseas territory of Montserrat is striving to rebuild after being rendered partly uninhabitable by volcanic eruptions.

Part of the Leeward Islands chain, Montserrat has been plagued by sporadic ash falls and lava flows since 1995 when the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted for the first time in centuries.

A major eruption in 1997 killed 19 people, devastating the south of the island and burying the capital, Plymouth. More than half the population left.

Once an economic mainstay, tourism was badly hit and Montserrat has relied heavily upon British and EU aid, with a new airport inaugurated in 2005.

Named by the voyager Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island became an English colony in 1632. Most Montserratians are of African descent.

The Montserrat Oriole, galliwasps (lizards) and mountain chickens - edible frogs found in the highlands - are among the island's notable or endangered species.


Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor

Chief minister: Donaldson Romeo

Donaldson Romeo's newly formed People's Democratic Party came to power with an overwhelming victory in the September 2014 elections.

It won seven out of nine seats to defeat the Movement for Change and Prosperity of incumbent Chief Minister Reuben Meade.

Born in Montserrat in 1962, Mr Romeo, a journalist and former artist, was elected to Montserrat's parliament as an independent in 2011.


Image copyright AFP
Image caption A scientist monitoring volcanic activity at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory

The island's public radio station, Radio Montserrat, broadcasts a full-service format of news, volcanic activity reports, music and entertainment.

The station broadcasts on FM; it lost its medium wave (AM) transmitter to volcanic activity in the late 1990s.


Some key dates in the history of Montserrat:

Image copyright AFP
Image caption View of the lava flow after a blast from the Soufriere Hills volcano in 1997

1493 - Navigator Christopher Columbus sights the island which he names after a Spanish abbey.

1632 - Colonised by Britain. The first settlers are Anglo-Irish who arrive from St Kitts. African slaves are brought in to work on the sugar plantations.

1783 - Treaty of Versailles - Ceded to Britain by France following numerous exchanges between the two countries which began in the 17th century.

1871 - Montserrat is incorporated into the Leeward Islands administration. The federation is dissolved in 1956.

1958-62 - Montserrat is part of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies.

1967 - Elects to retain colonial status instead of associated status within the West Indies Associated States (WISA).

1989 - Hurricane Hugo destroys more than 90% of the island's homes and other infrastructure.

1995 - Chances Peak volcano erupts for the first time in 350 years. State of emergency is declared.

2002 - British Overseas Territories Act grants British citizenship to Montserratians.

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