Martinique, Or Martinico, one of the West India islands belonging to France, in the Windward group, lying between lat. 14° 23' and 14° 53' N., and Ion. 60° 50' and 61° 19' W., 30 m. S. E. of Dominica and 20 m. N. of St. Lucia; length 45 m., greatest breadth 15 m.; area, 381 sq. m.; pop. in 1868, 153,334, including 16,618 coolies and about 20,000 whites. The island is irregular in form, high, rocky, and volcanic, containing live or six extinct craters. It is subject to earthquakes, of which several have been disastrous. In the interior are three mountains, the highest of which, Mont Pelee, in the north, 4,438 ft. above the sea, after a long period of inaction, burst forth in a violent volcanic eruption in August, 1851. From these mountains several ranges of low volcanic hills extend to the sea, and between them lie broad, fertile valleys. The rivers are numerous, but all small; most of them in the rainy season become fierce torrents. The coasts are indented by many bays, which are difficult of access. The E. side of the island, called Cabes-Terre, is more broken and sterile than the W., called Basse-Terre. About one third of the surface is under-culti-vation, the principal productions being sugar, coffee, cotton, cassia, manioc, bananas, indigo, maize, cacao, and ginger.
The climate is humid, and the average annual fall of rain is 84 inches. The year is divided into two seasons, one commencing about Oct. 15 and lasting nine months, and the other comprising the rest of the year. During the latter season the rains are abundant, and yellow fever and similar diseases prevail. The mean annual temperature of the plains is 81° F. The value of the agricultural produce in 1869 was 12,730,354 francs; the number of cattle is about 150,000. The manufactures possess considerable importance; there are several establishments for the preparation of indigo, about 100 for the various processes in the preparation of sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton, besides potteries, lime kilns, and steam mills. There is an active commerce, Chiefly with France. The exports are sugar, coffee, cocoa, cassia, dye and cabinet woods, cotton, rum, etc. The value of exports in 1869 amounted to 32,115,400 francs, and that of imports to 30,864,177; and the aggregate value of the import and export trade of France with Martinique was 40,384,549 francs. The number of vessels entering the ports in that year was 803; cleared, 858. - There is a governor, a privy council of seven members, and a colonial council of 30 members elected for five years.
The judiciary consists of a supreme court, and two assize and two inferior courts. The capital is Fort Royal or Fort de France, but St. Pierre is the largest town and the chief seat of commerce. - Martinique, called by the Indians Madiana, was discovered by Columbus in 1502. The French colonized it in 1635, and during the war of American independence made it a great naval station. The British seized it in 1762, 1781, 1794, and 1809, finally restoring it by the treaty of Paris in 1814. The slaves rebelled in 1822, 1833, and 1839; slavery was abolished in 1848. Since 1866 the colony has legislated for itself on duties and public works. A railway is in progress of construction (1875) from Fort Royal to St. Pierre.