Dominica is a mountainous, forested Caribbean island nation with a year-round tropical climate, national parks, rare indigenous birds and the second-largest boiling lake in the world.
It has significant tourism potential, but poor infrastructure and the absence of a large airport have impeded the industry's growth. The country is also vulnerable to hurricanes.
With few natural resources, Dominica is attempting to reduce its reliance on bananas, traditionally its main export earner.
The banana market has faced stiffer competition since the European Union was forced by the World Trade Organisation to phase out preferential treatment for producers from former colonies.
Commonwealth of Dominica
Area 751 sq km (290 sq miles)
Major languages English (official), French patois
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 74 (men), 78 (women)
Currency East Caribbean dollar
President: Charles Savarin
President Savarin, a former Labour Party cabinet minister, was appointed in September 2013, and re-elected in 2018.
Dominica's parliament, the House of Assembly, appoints the president - the ceremonial head of state. The prime minister and cabinet exercise executive power.
Prime minister: Roosevelt Skerrit
Roosevelt Skerrit's governing Dominica Labour Party won general elections in May 2005.
Campaigning on pledges to improve infrastructure and attract foreign investment, his government won a third term in December 2014, albeit with a majority reduced from its previous landslide win in 2009.
A former education minister, Mr Skerrit took office as Dominica's youngest prime minister two days after the sudden death of his predecessor, Pierre Charles, in January 2004. He was chosen by his party to succeed the late leader.
Dominica has a handful of weekly newspapers. There is no national terrestrial TV.
The radio scene includes public and private stations.
Freedom House rates the media as "generally free".
Some key dates in Dominica's history:
1763 - Britain gains possession of Dominica in accordance with the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years' War. It establishes a legislative assembly, representing only the white population.
1831 - Britain confers political and social rights on free non-whites.
1834 - Slavery abolished.
1838 - Dominica becomes the first and only British colony in the Caribbean to have a black-controlled legislature.
1865 - Britain replaces the elected assembly with one consisting of one-half elected members and one-half appointed.
1896 - Britain re-establishes crown colony government over Dominica.
1951 - Britain declares universal adult suffrage established in Dominica.
1958-62 - Dominica a member of the British-sponsored West Indies Federation.
1960 - Britain grants Dominica self-government, with a legislative council and a chief minister.
1978 - Dominica becomes independent.