This mid-18th-century map by the French royal geographer, Robert de Vaugondy, depicts the West Indies, the chain of islands enclosing the Caribbean Sea. Stretching in an arc from southern Florida to the northern coast of South America, these islands have been divided into three groupings by geographers: the Bahamas (Lucayas), low lying islands east of Florida; the Greater Antilles, including the large mountainous islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico; and the Lesser Antilles or Caribbees, small volcanic islands bordering the Caribbean Sea on the east.
In comparison to the rest of the Americas, the West Indies were not large in territory, but they were some of Europe's most prized possessions during the 18th century, primarily because of their ability to produce sugar and other tropical plantation crops. In the context of these intense political and commercial rivalries, Robert placed the most prosperous French colony of Saint Domingue (Hispaniola) in the center of the map. He also identified the small islands in the Lesser Antilles with the letters "F", "A", and "D" to indicate French, English, or Danish control. French possessions at this time included Saint Barthlemy, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Grenada
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