St. Kitts and Nevis, a country of the West Indies. It consists of two of the Leeward Islands situated about 1 mile (1.6 km) apart. The total area is 104 square miles (269 km 2 ). St. Kitts, or St. Christopher, is a volcanic island covering 68 square miles (176 km 2 ) with mountains up to about 3,800 feet (1,158 m) above sea level. Nevis, the smaller of the two islands, also is volcanic and reaches a maximum elevation of 3,232 feet (985 m). The country has an agricultural economy and produces mainly sugar and cotton for export, and yams and other foods for local consumption. There is some light manufacturing. The tourist trade, which greatly expanded during the 1980's, is also important. The country's basic currency unit is the East Caribbean dollar.
Most of the islanders are of African descent; their language is English. The population is about 44,000. Basseterre, on St. Kitts, is the capital. The country is a member of the British Commonwealth.
St. Kitts was reputedly discovered by Columbus in 1493, and Nevis was sighted on the same voyage. The first British colony in the West Indies was established on St. Kitts in 1623. Nevis was settled by the British in 1628. France founded a colony on St. Kitts in 1624 and the island remained divided between the two nations until France ceded its part to Great Britain by the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. France captured the island in 1782 but returned it to Britain by the Treaty of Paris the following year.
In 1967 St. Kitts and Nevis became St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, a self-governing state associated with Britain. Anguilla withdrew later that same year. The associated state become independent in 1983. A 1998 referendum on secession by Nevis was defeated.