Carib Indians inhabited Grenada when Christopher COLUMBUS discovered the island in 1498, but it remained uncolonized for more than a century. The French settled Grenada in the 17th century, established sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Britain took the island in 1762 and vigorously expanded sugar production. In the 19th century, cacao eventually surpassed sugar as the main export crop; in the 20th century, nutmeg became the leading export. In 1967, Britain gave Grenada autonomy over its internal affairs. Full independence was attained in 1974 making Grenada one of the smallest independent countries in the Western Hemisphere. Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year and have continued since then.
Grenada relies on tourism as its main source of foreign exchange especially since the construction of an international airport in 1985. Strong performance in construction and manufacturing, together with the development of tourism and higher education - especially in medicine - contributed to growth in national output; however, economic growth remained stagnant in the 2010-14 period, after a sizable contraction in 2009, because of the global economic slowdown's effects on tourism and remittances. Gross national saving – and wealth – has been declining since 2010.Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005) severely damaged the agricultural sector - particularly nutmeg and cocoa cultivation - which had been a key driver of economic growth. Grenada has rebounded from the devastating effects of the hurricanes but is now saddled with the debt burden from the rebuilding process. Public debt-to-GDP is about 110%, leaving the MITCHELL administration limited room to engage in public investments and social spending. MITCHELL in 2013 announced a structural adjustment program that includes a plan to increase tax revenue.