Located in the Caribbean, about 300 km east of Puerto Rico, the island of St. Martin is divided between The Netherlands in the south (St. Maarten) and France in the north (Collectivite de St.-Martin). Even though the divide is roughly 60/40, with France having a larger piece of land, the Dutch side of the island has the larger population. The main cities on the island are Phillipsburg on the Dutch side and Marigot on the French. When Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, the Carib Indians inhabited it, but in the 17th century conflict between European countries over the West Indies resulted in St. Martin changing hands a few times. It was in 1648, however, when France and the Dutch Republic confirmed the division of the island when the Treaty of Concordia was signed.
There is a popular piece of folklore which depicts how the island was divided by the French and the Dutch. Apparently the French and Dutch met at Oysterpond on the east coast, each walking in opposite directions until they met; that point being where they would draw the dividing line. As it is told, the French fortified themselves with wine before they set off, while the Dutch did so with gin. The bad effects of gin made it easier for the French to cover a larger distance, which is why now, they occupy more land. The truth of the matter, though, was that the French had a large navy offshore, and they were able to win concessions in the Treaty of Concordia. Since it was signed, the border changed 16 more times until 1815 when the border was permanently fixed.
There was an abundance of slavery on the island because of the cultivation of sugar, but on July 12, 1848 it was eventually abolished on the French side. July 12 is now celebrated as a holiday, called Schoelcher Day. The Dutch side, on the other hand, saw the abolition of slavery 15 years later. From the mid to late 19th century, the island began to develop its tourist industry and its infrastructure. Now a large focus is put on conserving the natural resources here. An interesting read that depicts a section of the history on St. Martin is A State of Independence by Caryl Phillips.