Nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ because its pear shape and natural abundance resembles coastal Ireland, Montserrat sits on an area of the Caribbean that is geologically unstable, making volcanic activity, earthquakes and other natural disasters common phenomenon. In both 1995 and 1997 the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted devastating the southern part of the island and forcing half of the population to leave; Britain gave Montserratians permanent residence after this catastrophic event. Even though the Soufriere Hills have been relatively quiet since 2010 tourism, a major part of the Montserratian livelihood, has suffered.
When Christoper Columbus first arrived on Montserrat the country was inhabited by native Arawak and Carib populations, however in 1632 the island fell under British control; the British simultaneously brought a group of Irish to the island who had been transported overseas as indentured workers. Shortly after, African slaves were also imported to Montserrat and the country developed an economy based on rum, sugar, arrowroot and cotton. The French initially occupied the country, but in 1783 Montserrat was given to Britain. English is the official language here, but Creole is used in less informal situations. A unique aspect about Montserrat is that the national identity draws from Irish culture, something which is evident in the names, cuisine, accents and even appearance of the Montserratians. Contemporary culture here, however, is now considered to be pan-Caribbean. Some authors who have written about Montserrat are Howard A. Fergus, Dorine O’Garro and Nancy Burke.