|Image Caption:||Bora Bora|
|Native Name:||Îles Sous-le-vent|
|Native Name Link:||French language|
|Major Islands:||Raiatea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Tahaa|
|Country Admin Divisions Title:||Overseas collectivity|
|Country Admin Divisions:||French Polynesia|
|Country Largest City:||Uturoa|
|Country Largest City Population:||8,735 urban|
|Population As Of:||Aug. 2007 census|
The Leeward Islands (French: Îles Sous-le-vent; Tahitian: Fenua Raro Mata’i, literally "Islands Under-the-Wind") are part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. The archipelago comprises an administrative division (French: subdivision administrative) of French Polynesia. The capital of the Leeward Islands administrative subdivision is Uturoa.
The first European to encounter the archipelago was James Cook on the 12th of April 1769 during the British expedition to observe the transit of Venus. On this first voyage (he subsequently revisited the islands twice) he named the Leeward group of islands Society in honor of the Royal Society. The islands were annexed by France and became a colony in 1888 (eight years after the Windward Islands) after many troubles lasting until 1897.
The islands are mountainous, and are good examples of volcanic rock. They are formed of trachyte, dolerite and basalt. There are raised coral beds high up the mountains, and lava occurs in a variety of forms, even in solid flows. Volcanic activity ceased so long ago that the craters have been almost entirely obliterated by erosion.
Flora includes breadfruit, pandanus, and coconut palms. The limited terrestrial fauna includes feral pigs, rats, and small lizards. There are several species of freshwater fish inhabiting the small streams on the islands, but the fringing coral reefs around the islands exhibit a dazzling array of fish and other salt water-dwelling species. The major products are copra, sugar, rum, mother-of-pearl, and vanilla. Tourism is extremely important to the economy.
The Leeward Islands (subdivision administrative des Îles Sous-le-vent) are one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions. The administrative subdivision is identical with the electoral district of the Leeward Islands, one of French Polynesia's 6 electoral districts for the Assembly of French Polynesia (see also Politics of French Polynesia).