General issues: Presidency Leeward Islands 1876-1956, British colony 1956-1958, Province West Indies Federation 1958-1962, British colony 1962-1963, British colony/Self government 1963-1981, British dependency 1981-2002, British overseas territory 2002-Present
Country name on general issues: Montserrat
Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1876-1951, 1 Dollar = 100 Cent 1951-Present
Population: 12 000 in 1900, 5 200 in 2015
Political history Montserrat
Montserrat is located in the Caribbean as one of the Lesser Antilles – for the exact location, please refer to the map of the Caribbean. Prior to colonization, the island was inhabited by the Amerindian Carib people that were found on many of the Lesser Antilles. At the time of colonization Montserrat was uninhabited. The first European to sight Montserrat was Christopher Columbus in 1493. He claimed the island for Spain, but the Spanish never settled Montserrat. The British were the first to establish a permanent settlement on Montserrat in 1628. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the island was disputed between France and Great Britain. France finally recognized British sovereignty in 1783.
Montserrat was, from the 17th until the 20th century, almost continuously, administered as part of the Leeward Islands colony – the federal colony that grouped together the British possessions in the Leeward Islands. In 1871, Montserrat was formally designated as a presidency of the Leeward Islands which it would be until the Leeward Islands colony was dissolved in 1956. Montserrat, subsequently, became a separate British colony and as such, between 1958 and 1962, joined the West Indies Federation – a short lived federation of most of the British possessions in the Caribbean. Montserrat gained self government in 1963, became a British dependency in 1981 and in 2002 became a British overseas territory.
In 1995, Montserrat was struck by the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano. The eruption devastated two thirds of the island, including the capital of Plymouth. The volcano has remained active since then and the larger part of the island is, until today, an exclusion zone.
Economically, Montserrat was developed, from the 17th century, as a plantations colony with sugar cane and cotton as the most important crops. When the sugar cane market declined in the 19th century, due to the abolition of slavery in 1834 and increased competition from other countries, the plantations were transformed into small holdings owned by the former slaves. Cotton now became the most important crop. In the 20th century the economy diversified – tourism was developed as an increasingly important sector. The 1995 eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano brought the economy to a standstill. Montserrat currently relies heavily on external funding, mainly by the British government.
The majority of the population is black – 88%. The eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano forced a large part of the population to leave the island, mainly to Britain. The population decreased from 13 000 in 1994 to 2 850 in 1998. Currently the population is 5 200.
Postal history Montserrat
The first stamps used in Montserrat were the general issues of Great Britain. These were used between 1858 and 1860. Montserrat issued its first stamps in 1876 – stamps of Antigua overprinted ‘Montserrat’. The first definitives were issued in 1880. The stamps of Montserrat were superseded by the issues of the Leeward Islands in 1890. Montserrat resumed issuing stamps in 1903 – stamps that were used concurrent with the issues of the Leeward Islands until 1956. The stamps issued in the classical period are of designs specific for Montserrat. Montserrat joined in a number of omnibus issues for the British colonies. Some of the political developments in the 1950’s are reflected in a set issued in 1958 at the occasion of the formation of the West Indies Federation, and, also in 1958, by a number of previously issued stamps being reissued – the descriptions ‘Map of the Presidency’ and ‘Badge of the Presidency’ used in the earlier issues were changed to ‘Map of the Colony’ and ‘Badge of the Colony’. In the modern era, Montserrat has issued a blend of stamps with themes of national interest and themes aimed at the thematic collectors market.