Martinique, an island in the Caribbean Sea and an overseas department of France. With an area of 425 square miles (1,100 km2), it is the largest of the Windward Islands. Agriculture is the major economic activity; tourism is also important. Exports include rum and bananas. The people are largely of African descent. Fort-de-France is the capital. Martinique's basic currency unit is the euro.
Columbus is believed to have discovered Martinique, in 1502. In 1635, the French settled in Martinique, founding Saint-Pierre. Sugar plantations were established and African slaves brought over to work on them. Martinique has been under French control since 1674 except for brief periods of British occupation. Josephine, first wife of Napoleon I, was born here.
Mont Pelée, a volcano on the island, erupted in 1902, producing a particularly deadly type of eruption now referred to as a Peléan eruption. No lava flowed out; instead, great dense clouds composed of particles suspended in highly heated gas burst forth. One cloud, rolling down the slope like an avalanche, leveled Saint-Pierre, then the capital, and all but two of its 30,000 people were killed.
Population: 359,572.Martinique is the largest of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles.