About the Archives


The heraldic description of the Federal Coat-of-Arms given to the Court of St. James’s on 1st August 1957 read,

For Arms: Or a Pile Gules thereon another Argenta Bordure Barrywavy of the last and Azure and Berzanty on a Chief also Gules a Lion passant guardant gold: And upon a representation of Our Royal Helmet mantled Gules doubled Argent, for the Crest: On a Wreath Argent Sable Azure or Vert and Gules Adexter Cubit Arm sunburnt proper holding erect a Torch or enflamed Gules: And for the Supporters: On either side a Brown Pelican wings elevated and addorsed Gold: together with the motto ‘To dwell together in unity’…


The West Indies Federation (1958-1962) was a political federation of ten territories in the Anglophone West Indies. It comprised of ten territories namely, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent with British Guiana and British Honduras as associated territories. The West Indies Federation shared some commonalities with other contemporary federations particularly with regard to issues such as constitutional reform and overcoming nationalist interests.  However, the West Indian experience was unique and distinct from all others mainly as a result of the geographical separateness of the territories by sea and the insularity of the territories which historically related bi-laterally with England. Additionally, there was the impact of extra- and intra-regional migrations on account of the colonial plantation economies that were based on indentured servitude, slavery and imported labour. The most striking characteristic, however, was the swiftness of the time in which Federation of the West Indies was established despite of the diversity and disparity in physical size, demographics and economies of the territories that made up the Federation.

The West Indies Federation was essentially a political means to an independent self-governing end.  The major players of the West Indies Federation intended on building a nation out of the various colonial territories, with various geographical realities and historical experiences. In affirming its readiness for full autonomy and nationhood, West Indians had to assert their collective uniqueness. The establishment of the Federal Government, therefore, had to promote a West Indian unity that transcended insular allegiances, celebrating historical-cultural similarities while downgrading territorial differences.

Thus, the West Indies Federation was much more than a short-lived political era but it represents the route and the root to many of the present-day regional political, economic and social structures, movements, institutions and associations. These include well established entities such as The University of the West Indies (UWI) formerly the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

In today’s globalised world, the strength of the Caribbean region lies in its unity through organizations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and economic initiatives such as Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which were born out of the Federal experience. The records of the West Indies Federation, regardless of form, testify to the fervent optimism and enthusiasm of the West Indian peoples to unite for the advancement of the region.


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