West Indies Federation

From Academic Kids

Federation of the West Indies
Missing image
Flag of the West Indies Federation

(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto:
Missing image

Official languageEnglish
Political status Overseas territory of the UK
Capital Chaguaramas
Largest cities Kingston and Port-of-Spain
Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General Patrick George Thomas Buchan-Hepburn
Prime Minister Grantley Herbert Adams (West Indian Federation Labour Party)
Creation January 3, 1958 (union of most of British West Indies)
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked n/a
20,231 km²

-Total(1960 E)
 - Density

Currency West Indies dollar ($)
Currency code WID
Time zone UTC –5 to -4, Summer: UTC –4 to -3
National anthem God Save the Queen
Internet TLD n/a
Calling Code n/a

The Federation of the West Indies was a short-lived, now defunct Caribbean federation that existed from January 3, 1958 to May 31, 1962. It consisted of several Caribbean colonies of the United Kingdom. The Federation fell apart in 1961 when Jamaica, the largest province, held a referendum calling for independence.



The provinces of the West Indies Federation were:


The Federation was an internally self-governing, federal state made up of ten provinces (in the British West Indies), all British colonial possessions. The federation was created by the United Kingdom in 1958 as a way of simultaneously satisfying the demands for independence of all colonies in the region. The legal basis for the federation was the British Caribbean Federation Act 1956, and the date of January 3, 1958 was set by an Order-in-Council proclaimed in 1957.

The head of state was Queen Elizabeth II. Her Governor-General was Patrick Buchan-Hepburn, 1st Baron Hailes.

The combined population of the West Indies Federation was between 6 and 7 million people. The proposed site for the capital city was Chaguaramas, a few miles west of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, but the site was part of a United States naval base.

The Federation maintained a particularly close relationship with the nation of Canada, which had a similar past of being a part of the British Empire and becoming a Confederation. In the early years several Caribbean leaders suggested the West Indies Federation should investigate the possibility of joining the Canadian Federation but this was never more than a fleeting interest.

This did not stop Canada from providing the West Indies Federation with two of the region's most important gifts, these gifts were two merchant ships named "The Federal Palm" and "The Federal Maple", these two vessels visited every island in the federation twice monthly.

Although the Federation was initially optimistically embraced, the unity did not last. The largest provinces, especially Jamaica and Trinidad, quickly gained control over the federal government's agenda, much to the displeasure of the smaller provinces, and were reluctant to establish a customs union. This in turn caused the larger provinces to resent being members of a union that had so many members hostile to them, and increased pro-independence sentiment. Federal elections were held on March 25, 1958. Two Federal parties were organised as confederations of local political parties, both of whom were organised by Jamaican politicians; the West Indian Federation Labour Party by Norman Manley and the Democratic Labour Party by Alexander Bustamante. The WIFLP won the election and Grantley Adams (of Barbados) became Prime Minister.


In 1961, the Jamaican province held a referendum on political secession from the Federation. It passed, with 54% of the vote, despite the opposition of Manley, the province's Premier at the time, and Jamaica became a fully independent country. After Jamaica left, the next largest province, Trinidad and Tobago, left in 1962, (the Premier of the time, Eric Williams saying "One from ten leaves nought" ("zero"), and after the departure of Trinidad and Tobago, the country was soon wound up.

The situation was regularised by the Parliament of the United Kingdom's West Indies Act 1962. The remaining provinces reverted to being colonies supervised directly from London, most of which became independent later on, as follows -

Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands remain overseas territories of the United Kingdom.


During the Federation's existence, each member continued to issue its own postage stamps as before; but on April 22, 1958, the members (except for the Cayman Islands) each issued a set of three commemorative stamps. All of these stamps used a common design depicting a map of the Caribbean and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, with an inscription at the top reading "THE WEST INDIES / FEDERATION 1958" at the top and the name of the member at the bottom. All of these stamps are quite common in both mint and used condition.


The federation's currency was the West Indies dollar, which later was succeeded by the East Caribbean dollar, the Jamaican dollar, the Barbados dollar, and the Trinidad and Tobago dollar. Successor organisations included the West Indies Associated States and CARICOM.

A partial legacy of the Federation is the West Indian cricket team, although the side was actually organised many years prior to the independence of the Federation.

Another lasting regional fixture officially created before the Federation, is the University of the West Indies. During the Federation the University took a policy of regional expansion into two other islands of the Federation, besides its main Jamaica campus. The two other campuses established was one to the twin island state of Trinidad and Tobago established in 1960, and one in the island of Barbados, established a short time after the Federation dissolved in 1963.


  • Hoyes, F. A. 1963. The Rise of West Indian Democracy: The Life and Times of Sir Grantley Adams. Advocate Press.
  • Williams, Eric. 1964. British Historians and the West Indies. P.N.M. Publishing Company, Port-of-Spain.
  • Gonsalves, Ralph E. 1994. History and the Future: A Caribbean Perspective. Quik-Print, Kingstown, St. Vincent.
  • Carmichael, Dr. Trevor A. 2001. Passport to the Heart: Reflections on Canada Caribbean Relations. Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston 6, Jamaica. ISBN 976-637-028-1 The book's Forward passage (http://www.david-kilgour.com/secstate/passport.htm)de:Westindische Föderation

nl:West-Indische Federatie


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