Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelago nation in the southern Caribbean, near to the northern coast of Venezuela. The country consists of Trinidad, the largest and most populous island, the smaller island of Tobago and various smaller landmasses. It is one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean, because of the reserves of oil and gas on its territory and the burgeoning tourism industry. However social problems still blight the country with huge economic disparity, and various problems related to the drug trade particularly acute. The islands were first settled by the pre-agricultural Archaic people around 7,000 years ago, meaning that it was the first Caribbean nation to be settled. Amerindians from South American later landed on the island before Europeans landed there in the early 16th century.
Trinidad was colonised firstly by the Spanish, who landed there in the early 16th century before it was taken by the British in 1797. Tobago was coveted by various European powers, including the Spanish, French and Dutch, and changed hands between these powers several times over the course of its history. It was eventually secured by Britain in 1889. As with other Caribbean colonies slaves were brought from Africa to work on the plantations, although this was comparatively less common than in neighbouring colonies. Much of the labour brought to develop the country came in the form of indentured labourers from China, Portugal and India; the descendants of whom still live on the islands and account for the diverse population of Trinidad and Tobago. The country gained independence from Britain in 1962.
The culture of Trinidad and Tobago is an expression of the diverse ethnic and political influences which have held sway in the islands for the last few centuries. This diverse mixture of cultures is best expressed in the music of the islands which are famous as the birthplace of calypso and of the steel pan. The most famous writer from Trinidad and Tobago is the Nobel Prize winning author VS Naipaul, who has been widely acclaimed as one of the greatest writers of the latter 20th century. He is of Indian origin and his works often engage with post-colonial themes; some of the most prominent include A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and The Enigma of Arrival. Another Nobel Laureate in literature, Derek Walcott was born in Saint Lucia but spent much of his life in Trinidad and Tobago. Some other prominent writers from the country include Michael Anthony, Robert Antoni, Samuel Selvon, Vahni Capildeo, Earl Lovelace and Lawrence Scott.