Money of the British West Indies

The British West Indies included the mainland territories of British Guiana and British Honduras and the islands of Bermuda, The Bahamas, Jamaica, the Caymans, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and the Windward and Leeward Islands. Queen Anne introduced the gold standard to the British West Indies in 1704, but Spanish silver dollars and gold doubloons formed an important element in circulating coinage. In addition, the British government struck 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16 “Anchor dollar” fractions for use in Mauritius and the British West Indies in 1822.

Sterling silver coinage was first introduced to the colonies in 1825, primarily because Spanish dollars were no longer readily available due to the independence of most of the Spanish-American colonies – the last Spanish dollar was struck in 1825 at Potosi, Bolivia. The successful introduction of the gold sovereign in 1817 also played a role.

The introduction was initially a failure because it used an unrealistic exchange rate to the Spanish dollar of $1 = 4 shillings 4 pence. In 1838, legislation created a realistic rate of $1 = 4 shillings 2 pence and most of the British West Indies used sterling coinage from 1840 until 1955. Before World War II, the “sterling area” was created to support the value of UK coinage to assist the war effort, and the British West Indies territories joined in 1939. After WWII, the dollar was gradually adopted in all territories with the British West Indies dollar being widespread under the control of the British Caribbean Currency Board.

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) was formed in 1981. It has seven full members (Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines) and three associate members (Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Martinique). All except Martinique are either former British colonies or remain overseas territories of the UK.




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