British Leeward Islands

The British Leeward Islands was a British colony from 1671 to 1958, consisting of the English (later British) overseas possessions in the Leeward Islands. It ceased to exist from 1816 to 1833, during which time it was split into two separate colonies (AntiguaBarbudaMontserrat and Saint ChristopherNevisAnguillaVirgin Islands). It was dissolved in 1958 after the separation of the British Virgin Islands, and the remaining islands became parts of the West Indies Federation.

Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands
  • 1671–1816
  • 1833–1958
Coat of arms
Anthem: "God Save the Queen/King"
StatusColony of the United Kingdom
CapitalSt. John's
Common languages
Christianity (Anglican, Catholic, Methodist)
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
 1671–1685 (first)
Charles II
 1952–1958 (last)
Elizabeth II
Governor in Chief 
 1671-1683 (first)
William Stapleton
 1956–1958 (last)
Alexander Williams
 Federal colony
 Dominica joined
 Dominica left
 Federation dissolved
31 May 1962
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Saint Christopher
Virgin Islands
West Indies Federation
British Virgin Islands


The Leeward Islands was established as an English colony in 1671. In 1816, the islands were divided in two regions: Antigua, Barbuda, and Montserrat in one colony, and Saint Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands in the other.

The Leeward Islands were united again as a semi-federal entity in 1833, coming together until 1872 under the administration of the Governor of Antigua. The islands then became known as the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands from 1872 to 1956. From 1833 to 1940, Dominica was part of the colony; in 1940, it was transferred to the British Windward Islands group.[1]

On 3 January 1958 all islands except the Virgin Islands were absorbed into the West Indies Federation. The British Leeward Islands finally ceased to exist with the abolition of the office of its governor, and the elevation of the British Virgin Islands to the status of a separate crown colony, in 1960.[2][3]

A representative Leeward Islands cricket team continues to participate in West Indian domestic cricket.

Armed forces structure in 1939

The armed forces of the colony included structures from Saint Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua, Dominica, and British Virgin Islands.[4]

Postage stamps

The islands of the Leeward Islands all used postage stamps inscribed "LEEWARD ISLANDS" between 1890 and 1 July 1956, often concurrently with stamps inscribed with the colony's name. The islands also issued revenue stamps between 1882 and the 1930s.

See also

  • List of governors of the Leeward Islands
  • Attorney General of the Leeward Islands
  • Chief Justice of the Leeward Islands
  • British Windward Islands
  • History of the British West Indies


  1. Honychurch, Lennox (1995). The Dominica Story: A History of the Island (3rd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers. pp. 129, 132, 175. ISBN 0-333-62776-8.
  2. "Private Lands Conservation in the British Virgin Islands". University of Colorado Boulder. Natural Resources Law Center. 2004. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  3. "Encyclopedia Britannica - BVI". Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  4. "Leeward Islands, 03.09.1939". Retrieved 19 January 2019.

Sources and further reading

  • Dator, James. "Frank Travels: Space, Power and Slave Mobility in the British Leeward Islands, c. 1700–1730." Slavery & Abolition 36.2 (2015): 335-359. online
  • Fergus, Howard A. A history of education in the British Leeward Islands, 1838-1945 (University of West Indies Press, 2003).
  • Hicks, Dan. "Material improvements: The archaeology of estate landscapes in the British Leeward Islands, 1713–1838." in State Landscapes: Design, Improvement, and Power in the Post-Medieval Landscape (Boydell and Brewer, 2007) pp: 205-227. online
  • Higman, Barry W. "Small Islands, Large Questions: Post-Emancipation Historiography of the Leeward Islands." in Small Islands, Large Questions (Routledge, 2014) pp. 8-28.

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