The Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, comprising the northerly group of islands in the Lesser Antilles, was formed from the five Presidencies:
Antigua, with Barbuda and Redonda: Antigua colonised from St. Kitts by British 1632, Attempted settlement of Barbuda 1628 failed; colonised from Antigua 1661. Treaty of Breda ceded Antigua to Britain 1667.
Dominica: Attempted settlement 1627 failed. Captured by British 1757 and formally ceded 1763. Captured by French 1778, restored to Britain 1783.
Montserrat: Colonised 1632 from St. Kitts. Ceded to Britain by Treaty of Versailles 1783.
St. Christopher (ST. KITTS), with Nevis and Anguilla: Sir Thomas Warner’s landing at Old Bay Road, St. Kitts, began British Colonisation 1623. Nevis settled from there 1628 and Anguilla in 1650. Ceded to Britain by Treaty of Versailles 1783.
British Virgin Islands: Dutch buccaneers ejected by British 1666. Colonised from Anguilla between 1680-94.
The Colony’s total area was about 720 square miles, with seat of Government at St. John’s, Antigua. The southerly group - the Windward Islands - consisted philatelically of Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada, but there were never issues for that group as a separate entity. Dominica was transferred to the Windward Islands administration on 1 January 1940.
The islands of the Leewards had been discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second expedition in November 1493. Inhabited by Caribs or Arawak Indians, they were visited by Europeans in the 16th century - and fought over between them until the 19th century.
The Federal stamp issues came into use on 31 October 1890. Before that date, Great Britain adhesives had been used from 1858 to 1860. From 8 May 1858 G.B. adhesives prepaid packet correspondence only, extended to local mail on 1 February 1859. This arrangement ended on 1 May 1860 when control of postal affairs was transferred to the West Indies from London and stamps gradually began to be issued by the individual islands:
- Antigua from August 1862;
- Dominica from 4 May 1874;
- Montserrat from September 1876;
- Nevis from 1861;
- St. Christopher (St. Kitts) from 1 April 1870;
- Virgin Islands from 1866.
Various PAID handstamps served during the interim periods before these issues.
The administrative good sense of the Federal issues of 1890 soon caused philatelic revenue to tail off. By 1898 the resumption of special issues for the Presidencies for use concurrently with the Federal stamps began to be approved. In January 1899 the Virgin Islands led the way; between May and September 1903 it was joined by Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat and combined issues for St. Kitts-Nevis.
Leeward Islands Federal issues were overprinted for use in Barbuda and issued on 13 July 1922. Thereafter Antigua stamps were used until 1968.
In 1952 the inscription on St. Kitts-Nevis stamps was changed to St. Christopher-Nevis- Anguilla.
In 1956, when the Leeward Islands group was broken up, the Federal issues (then Q.E.II keytypes) ceased to be valid from 1 July 1956.