During his second trip to America Christopher Columbus became the first European to land on Guadeloupe in November 1493, seeking fresh water. He called it Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Extremadura. However, the expedition set ashore just south of Capesterre but did not leave any settlers ashore.
After successful settlement on the island of St Christophe (St Kitts), the French American Islands Company delegated Charles Lienard and Jean Duplessis, Lord of Ossonville to colonize one or any of the region’s islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique or Dominica. Due to Martinique’s inhospitable nature, the duo resolved to settle in Guadeloupe. The French took possession of the island in 1635 and wiped out many of the Carib amerindians. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1674. Over the next century, the island was seized several times by the British. One indication of Guadeloupe's prosperity at this time is that in the Treaty of Paris (1763), France, defeated in war, accepted to abandon its territorial claims in Canada in return for British recognition of French control of Guadeloupe.
In 1790, the upper classes of Guadeloupe refused to obey the new laws of equal rights for the free colored and attempted to declare independence, wich resulted in great disturbances; a fire broke out in Pointe-à-Pitre and devastated a third of the town, and a struggle between the monarchists (who wanted independence) and the republicans (who were faithful to revolutionary France) ended in the victory of the monarchists, who declared independence in 1791, followed by the refusal to receive the new governor appointed by Paris in 1792. In 1793, a slave rebellion started, which made the upper classes turn to the British and ask them to occupy the island.
In an effort to take advantage of the chaos ensuing from the French Revolution, Britain attempted to seize Guadeloupe in 1794 and held it from April 21 to June 2. The French retook the island under the command of Victor Hugues, who succeeded in freeing the slaves. They revolted and turned on the slave-owners who controlled the sugar plantations, but when American interests were threatened, Napoleon sent a force to suppress the rebels and reinstitute slavery. Louis Delgrès and a group of revolutionary soldiers killed themselves on the slopes of the Matouba volcano when it became obvious that the invading troops would take control of the island. The occupation force killed approximately 10,000 Guadeloupeans in the process of restoring order to the island.
On February 5, 1813 the British once again seized the island and held it until March 3, 1813, when it was ceded to Sweden as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars. Sweden already had a colony in the area, but merely a year later Sweden left the island to France in the Treaty of Paris of 1814. An ensuing settlement between Sweden and the British gave rise to the Guadeloupe Fund. French control of Guadeloupe was finally acknowledged in the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. Slavery was abolished on the island in 1848 at the initiative of Victor Schoelcher. Today the population of Guadeloupe is mostly of African origin with an important European and Indian active population. Lebanese, Chinese, and people of many other origins are also present.
On February 22, 2007 the communes of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy were officially detached from Guadeloupe and became overseas collectivities separate from Guadeloupe