The Commonwealth of Dominica, is a sovereign island country south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique, part of the Windward islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. The capital, Roseau, is located on the leeward side of the island. Its area is 290 square miles (750 square kilometers) and the highest point is Morne Diablotins, at 4,747 feet (1,447 meters) elevation. The population was 72,301 at the 2014 census. Its name is pronounced with emphasis on the third syllable, related to its French name of Dominique. Dominica has been nicknamed the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its unspoiled natural beauty. The Sisserou parrot, also known as the imperial amazon and found only on Dominica, is the island’s national bird and featured on the national flag. Dominica’s economy depends on tourism and agriculture.
The precolonial inhabitants were the Island Caribs. The name comes from the Latin word dies Dominica for Sunday, the day on which the island was spotted by Christopher Columbus in November 1493. Its pre-Columbian name by the Caribs was Wai‘tu kubuli, which means “Tall is her body”. As European explorers and settlers entered the region, indigenous refugees from surrounding islands settled Dominica and pushed out the Spanish settlers, who found other areas easier to control and with more resources.
Spain had little success in colonising Dominica. In 1632, the French Compagnie des Îles de l’Amérique claimed it and other Petite Antilles for France, but no physical occupation took place. Between 1642 and 1650, French missionary Raymond Breton became the first regular European visitor to the island.
In 1660, the French and English agreed that Dominica and St. Vincent should not be settled, but left to the Caribs as neutral territory. But its natural resources attracted expeditions of English and French foresters, who began harvesting timber. In 1690, the French established their first permanent settlements. French woodcutters from Martinique and Guadeloupe began to set up timber camps to supply the French islands with wood and gradually become permanent settlers. They brought the first enslaved people from West Africa to Dominique, as it was then called.
In 1715, a revolt of “poor white” smallholders in the north of Martinique, known as La Gaoulé, caused many to migrate to southern Dominique where they set up smallholdings. Meanwhile, French families and others from Guadeloupe settled in the north. In 1727, the first French commander, M. Le Grand, took charge of the island with a basic French government; Dominique formally became a colony of France, and the island was divided into districts or “quarters”. Already installed in Martinique and Guadeloupe and cultivating sugarcane, the French gradually developed plantations in Dominique for coffee. They imported so many African slaves to fill the labor demands that the population became predominantly African in ethnicity.
In 1761, during the Seven Years’ War in Europe, a British expedition against Dominica led by Andrew Rollo conquered the island along with several other Caribbean islands. In 1763, France ceded the island to Great Britain under the Treaty of Paris. The same year, the British established a legislative assembly, representing only European colonists. French remained the official language, but Antillean Creole was spoken by most of the population. In 1778 the French, with the active co-operation of the population, began Invasion of Dominica, which was ended by the 1783 Treaty of Paris. French invasions in 1795 and 1805 ended in failure.
Great Britain established a small colony in 1805. In 1831, reflecting a liberalisation of official British racial attitudes, the Brown Privilege Bill conferred political and social rights on free blacks (or free people of color, who generally were of mixed race). With the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 slavery throughout the British Empire was ended, except in India.
In 1835, the first three men of African descent were elected to the legislative assembly. Many slaves from the neighboring islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique fled to Dominica. In 1838, Dominica became the first colony of the British West Indies to have an elected legislature controlled by an ethnic African majority; most of these legislators had been smallholders or merchants before the abolition of slavery. Their economic and social views were different from the interests of the small, wealthy English planter class. Reacting to a perceived threat to their power, the planters lobbied for more direct British rule.
The GPO in London established a branch at Roseau in on May 8, 1858, using a handstruck mark reading Paid at Dominica. The first stamps used were British stamps with obliteration A07. Colonial officials took charge of the postal service starting on May 1, 1860, and used their own handstruck postal markings.
In 1865, after much agitation and tension, the colonial office replaced the elective assembly with one that had one-half of members who were elected and one-half who were appointed. Planters allied with colonial administrators outmaneuvered the elected legislators on many occasions. In 1871, Dominica became part of the British Leeward Islands. The power of the ethnic African population progressively eroded.
On May 4, 1874, Dominica issued its first stamps, with a set consisting of 1 penny, 6 pence, and 1 shilling values. The design was a profile of Queen Victoria in an oval frame with DOMINICA POSTAGE in the band of the frame. The same design continued in use, with additional values and changes of color and watermark, through 1888. Provisional issues included a half-penny surcharge on bisects in 1882-3, and surcharges in 1886.
The general issue of stamps for the Leeward Islands superseded Dominican stamps on October 31, 1890, but concurrent Dominican issues resumed in 1903, and continued through December 31, 1939.
Crown colony government was re-established in 1896. All political rights were curtailed for people of color and blacks, who were the overwhelming majority of the population. Development aid, offered as compensation for disfranchisement, resulted in negligible improvements in conditions for most ethnic Africans.
In World War I, many Dominicans, mainly the sons of small farmers, volunteered to fight in Europe for the British Empire. After the war, an upsurge of political consciousness throughout the Caribbean led to the formation of the Representative Government Association. Marshaling public frustration with the lack of a voice in governing Dominica, this group won one-third of the popularly elected seats of the legislative assembly in 1924, and one-half in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Dominica was transferred from the Leeward Island Administration. During World War II, some Dominicans volunteered in British and Caribbean forces. Thousands of Free French refugees from Martinique and Guadeloupe escaped to Dominica from the Vichy-controlled French islands and stayed in Roseau and villages.
Dominica adopted the British West Indies dollar in 1949, and the first stamp issue denominated in the new currency was the Universal Postal Union 75th anniversary commemorative in October of that year. This was followed up in 1951 with a new series of 15 pictorials that included a full-face portrait of George VI. The pictorial set was reissued in 1954 with a profile portrait of Elizabeth II, along with four additional designs.
Until 1958, Dominica was governed as part of the Windwards. Caribbean islands sought independence from 1958 to 1962, and Dominica became a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation. After the federation dissolved, Dominica became an associated state of the United Kingdom in 1967 and formally took responsibility for its internal affairs. On November 3, 1978, the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted independence becoming a republic. The British Crown was no longer the head of state.
In mid-1979, political discontent led to the formation of an interim government. After the 1980 elections, it was replaced by a government led by the Dominica Freedom Party under Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean’s first female prime minister. Chronic economic problems were compounded by the severe impact of hurricanes in 1979 and in 1980.
In 1981, Dominica was threatened with a takeover by mercenaries of Operation Red Dog led by Mike Perdue of Houston and Wolfgang Droege of Toronto, who tried to overthrow the government of Eugenia Charles. The North American mercenaries were to help ex-Prime Minister Patrick John and his Dominica Defence Force regain control of the island, in exchange for control over its future development. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was tipped off, and the ship hired to transport the mercenaries never left dock. The mercenaries lacked formal military experience or training, and most of the crew had been misled into joining by the ringleader Mike Perdue. White supremacist Don Black was also jailed for his part in the attempt, which violated US neutrality laws.
By the end of the 1980s, the economy recovered. It weakened again in the 1990s due to a decrease in banana prices and worldwide recession.
In the January 2000 elections, the Edison James United Workers Party (UWP) was defeated by the Dominican Labour Party (DLP), led by Roosevelt P. “Rosie” Douglas. Douglas died after only a few months in office and was replaced by Pierre Charles, who died in office in January 2004. Roosevelt Skerrit, also of the DLP, replaced Charles as Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister Skerrit’s leadership, the DLP won elections in May 2005 that gave the party 12 seats in the 21-member Parliament to the UWP’s 8 seats. An independent candidate affiliated with the DLP won a seat as well. Later, the independent candidate joined the government and one UWP member crossed the aisle, making the total 14 seats for the DLP and 7 for the UWP.
In the December 2009 elections, DLP won 18 of 21 seats. UWP claimed campaign improprieties and boycotted Parliament; by-elections were conducted for two of its seats in July 2010, and the UWP again won the seats. On September 17, 2012, Eliud Thaddeus Williams was sworn in as President, replacing Dr Nicholas Liverpool who was reportedly removed from office due to ill health. On September 30, 2013, former Trade Union Leader and agitator Charles Savarin was elected President having only days before resigned as a Minister of Government.
Scott #111 was issued on April 11, 1940, a ¼ penny brown violet-colored (called “chocolate” in the Stanley Gibbons cataloge) stamp printed using the photogravure method by Harrison & Sons Lrd. on chalk-surfaced paper watermarked with a multi-script CA. The stamp picturing a front-facing portrait of King George VI has a perforation gauge of 15×14.