Danish West Indies

Danish West Indies

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The Danish West Indies (Danish: Dansk Vestindien or De dansk-vestindiske øer) or "Danish Antilles", were a colony of Denmark-Norway and later Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. They were sold to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1916 in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies
Treaty of the Danish West Indies
The Treaty of the Danish West Indies, officially the Convention between the United States and Denmark for cession of the Danish West Indies, was a 1916 treaty transferring sovereignty of the Danish West Indies from Denmark to the United States, which were renamed as the United States Virgin...

 and became the United States Virgin Islands
United States Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.The U.S...

 in 1917. Jomfruøerne ("Virgin Islands") is the Danish geographic name for the Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, which form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean...

.

They covered a total area of 185 square miles (479.1 km²) and in the 1850s consisted of three islands—St. Thomas at 43 square miles (or 111 kilometres2); St. John 42 square miles (108.8 km²) and St. Croix of 100 square miles (259 km²).

History



The Danish West India and Guinea Company settled on St. Thomas island first in 1672, expanding to St. John in 1683 (a move disputed with the British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 until 1718), and purchasing St. Croix from the French West Indies Company in 1733. In 1754, the islands were sold to the Danish king, Frederick V of Denmark
Frederick V of Denmark
Frederick V was king of Denmark and Norway from 1746, son of Christian VI of Denmark and Sophia Magdalen of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.-Early life:...

, becoming royal Danish colonies.

At times during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, the islands were occupied by the British; first from March 1801 to March 27, 1802, and then again from December 1807 to November 20, 1815, when they were returned to Denmark.
In the 1850s Danish West Indies had a total population of about 41,000 people. The government of the islands were under a governor-general, whose jurisdiction extends to the other Danish colonies of the group, however, because the islands formerly belonged to Great Britain consequently the inhabitants were English in customs and in language. The islands of that period consisted of:
  • St. Thomas having a population of 12,800 people with sugar and cotton as its chief exports. St. Thomas city was the capital of the island, then a free port, and the chief station of the steam-packets between Southampton, in England, and the West Indies.
  • St. John had a population of about 2,600 people.
  • Santa Cruz though inferior to St. Thomas in commerce, was of greater importance in extent and fertility and had the largest population of 25,600 people.


On January 17, 1917, the islands were sold to the United States for $25 million when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. Danish administration ended March 31, 1917, when the United States took formal possession of the territory and renamed it the United States Virgin Islands
United States Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.The U.S...

.

The United States had been interested in the islands for years because of their strategic position near the approach to the Panama Canal
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

 and because of the fear that Germany might seize them to use as U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 bases during World War I.

Postage stamps


Denmark issued stamps for the Danish West Indies from 1856 on; see postage stamps and postal history of the Danish West Indies
Postage stamps and postal history of the Danish West Indies
thumb|120px|right|3 cent stamp, 1866thumb|120px|left|20 bit stamp, 1905St Thomas was a hub of the West Indies packet service from 1851 to 1885. Initially mail was transported by a Spanish packet to and from Puerto Rico; but in July 1867 the British picked up the mail contract, and packet letters...

 for more details.

See also

  • List of Governors of the Danish West Indies
  • Danish colonization of the Americas
    Danish colonization of the Americas
    Denmark and the former political union of Denmark–Norway had a colonial empire from the 17th through the 20th centuries, large portions of which were found in the Americas...

  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Danish India
    Tranquebar
    Tharangambadi is a panchayat town in Nagapattinam district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 15 km north of Karaikal, near the mouth of a distributary of the Kaveri River. Its name means "place of the singing waves"...

  • Danish Gold Coast
    Danish Gold Coast
    The Danish Gold Coast was a part of the Gold Coast , which is on the West African Gulf of Guinea...

  • Colonialism
    Colonialism
    Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...


Sources, references and external links