Martinique (called Martinico by the Spaniards and Madrena by the natives), one of the West India islands, belongs to the Lesser Antilles. It is 43 miles long, and has an area of 380 square miles. Discovered in 1493 by the Spaniards, it was colonised by the French in the 17th century, and has ever since been held by them, except for short periods in the Seven Years' and Napoleonic wars, when it was captured by Great Britain. The island is mountainous in the north and south, and well-watered, but the climate is hot and unhealthy.
Much sugar is cultivated and exported, and manioc, sweet potatoes, and bananas are grown. The work has been done by coolies since 1848. The principal towns, which are in the west, are Fort de France and St. Pierre, the former of which suffered a disastrous fire in 1890.