Canary Islands


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Canary Islands is Number 123 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The Canary archipelago is a group of seven main islands and six uninhabited islets located in the Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Morocco, and belonging to Spain. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, and economic conditions. The Canaries differ from other Atlantic islands in that they were visited by Genoese and Catalan sailors as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, rather than discovered and occupied by Europeans in the 15th century. Unlike other Atlantic islands, such as the Azores, they were not uninhabited, but populated by an indigenous people, the Guanches. The first permanent European settlement in the Canaries was by a French expedition in 1402; Portugal later seized the islands but surrendered its claims to Spain in 1479, which completed conquest of the Canaries by the end of the century. The study notes the three distinct economic functions played by the Canary Islands: as a coaling station on the main route for ships traveling between Europe and both South Africa and South America; as a major producer and exporter of bananas and tomatoes, chiefly to the British market; and as a health and holiday resort. The study also notes that the “deep water between the Canary Islands and the African coast from Cape Nun to Cape Blanco is reputed to be the best fishing ground in the world.”

Last updated: July 23, 2015