Island of the Lesser Antilles, a French colony, located at 14 ° 30 ′ lat. N. ea at 61 ° long. OR.; is 130 km away. towards SSE. from Guadeloupe, from which, however, Dominica (British) separates it. Its name is an alteration of Madinina, the Caribbean name of the island; it has an area of 1106 sq km. (according to recent photogrammetric rises), 65 km. in length from NO. to SE. for 31 medium width.
According to Homosociety, the island presents from south to north three groups of increasingly recent volcanic formations; the bay of Fort-de-France and the river Lézard separate the oldest part from the rest of the chain. The culminating point of the southern part is the Vauclin (505 m.); to NO. of Lézard the eruptive centers are more easily recognized in the Carbet massif and in the Montagne Pelée (1350 m.). This last volcano had a period of paroxysm between 1902 and 1904: on 8 May 1902 a cloud of fire destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre with its 28,000 residents in a few moments; A dome of lava and characteristic spiers were later formed in the crater which did not take long to collapse.
From the mountains of the island some streams descend which have formed alluvial plains at their outlets. The coasts are generally high and indented by numerous bays. The climate of Martinique is humid and hot, the atmosphere is always full of water vapor; the temperature at sea level remains almost constantly on 26 °, with very slight annual variation (less than 4 °), the higher it becomes more bearable. The dry season runs from October to May, the rainy season from May to October; there are regular rains in July and August, thunderstorms in September-October, the cyclone season, during which the NE trade wind. it is often replaced by S. and SW winds. The northern and eastern parts of the island receive an average of 2 m. of rain per year; the southern and western parts 1 and a half meters. The flora is represented in the lower parts by the savannah, or by marshy associations or by sparse woods, between 500 and 1000 meters there are luxuriant forests, whose main feature is the wealth of palms and arborescent ferns.
No trace remains of the indigenous population of the Caribs, and Martinique is populated by negroes descended from the slaves deported there in the past for the cultivation of colonial commodities. From the union of these with the Whites were born the mulattos, which now constitute the majority of the population. In 1848 there were 1,500 Whites and 110,000 black men on the island, from that time onwards there is no more distinction of race in the censuses. Between 1854 and 1884, 25,000 Hindu coolies and a few hundred Chinese arrived on the island, but they were almost all repatriated. In 1931 the population was 234,000 residents with the density of 212 per sq. km.
Almost all of the population is Catholic and depends on the diocese of Martinique, or Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, established on 27 September 1850, still dependent on the Propaganda Fide and entrusted to the missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.
Martinique is represented in the French parliament by a senator and two deputies; it is administered by a governor assisted by a private council and an elected general council. It includes two districts (arrondissements), Fort-de-France and Saint-Pierre, and twenty-five municipalities. Fort-de-France (47,000 residents), Capital of the colony, is one of the best ports in the Antilles: its position on the road from Gibraltar to Panama, at the entrance to the Caribbean Sea, gives it great importance as a coal station and as a stopover ; the port is equipped with excellent equipment. Fort-de-France, which took advantage of the destruction of Saint-Pierre, which was formerly the economic center of the island, but rises very slowly from the ruins (3000 residents), Is touched by several shipping lines. There Compagnie Transatlantique unites Martinique with Saint-Nazaire and Bordeaux; relations with the United States and Canada are maintained by British and American companies.
Martinique is above all a “sugar colony”, even if, in this respect, it is inferior to Guadeloupe and Réunion; coffee and tobacco, once widely cultivated, have given way to this crop. Large properties or habitations they cover about four fifths of the cultivated area and of this three quarters are dedicated to sugar cane. However, the cultivation systems are too often outdated and the result is a weak yield (40 to 45 tons per hectare). The sugar industry is concentrated in important establishments (21), while there are 147 rum distilleries. Before the World War, sugar cane had a period of crisis, which was followed (1914-1919) by a period of prosperity. Since 1923 it has been protected by a law which permits the importation into France of a large annual quota free of duty. We then try to encourage the cultivation of food plants, which are too sacrificed to sugar cane.
Trade in Martinique, which in 1919 had reached 576 million francs, fell in 1931 to about 400 million (220 for imports and 180 for exports); France participates for 6% in imports and 97% in exports. Sugar (40,000 tons) and rum (152,000 hectol.) Represent 98% of exports. Food (wheat, rice, wine, cod) and processed items are imported.