A prominent landmark on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, a massive 17th century fortress at the summit of Brimstone Hill, stands as a reminder of the island’s colonial past and was a source of its once being known as the “Gibraltar of the West Indies.”
Prior to European arrival, the islands were occupied by indigenous Kalinago people for at least three centuries. Saint Kitts and Nevis have the distinction of being two of the Caribbean's oldest colonised territories. Saint Kitts was the first British colony established in the West Indies (1624), and then became the first ever French colony in the Caribbean in 1625, when the island was partitioned between them. British settlers from St. Kitts began to occupy the island of Nevis in 1628.
These colonies became a springboard for both the British and French, for colonization of other islands in the Caribbean region. Historically, prior to granting of independence for Saint Kitts and Nevis in 1983, the country was united with Anguilla and known as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. Anguilla broke away and was allowed to secede in 1971. Since 1996 Nevis has also been going through the constitutional process of secession from Saint Kitts.
In colonial times the main industry of the islands was sugar cultivation and production. Hence, most of the residents of Saint Kitts and Nevis today are descendants of African slaves brought to the colonies to labor in this industry.
English is the official language but Saint Kitts Creole English (also known as Kittitian Creole English or Leeward Caribbean Creole English or Antigua & Barbuda Creole English), is spoken widely among the population of nearly 39,000.