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History of Barbados

From Academic Kids

This is the History of Barbados. See also the history of the Caribbean, Latin American History, history of the Americas, and the history of present-day nations and states.

British sailors who landed on Barbados in the 1620s at the site of present-day Holetown on the Caribbean coast found the island uninhabited. As elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean, Arawak Indians may have been annihilated by invading Caribs, who are believed to have subsequently abandoned the island.

From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627-1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639.

Among the initial important British figures was Sir William Courten.

As the sugar industry developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers relocated to British colonies in North America, most notably South Carolina. To work the plantations, slaves were brought from Africa; the slave trade ceased a few years before the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire in 1834. The 1907 Nuttall Encyclopedia reports the island's population as 182,000.

Local politics were dominated by plantation owners and merchants of British descent. It was not until the 1930s that a movement for political rights was begun by the descendants of emancipated slaves. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party in 1938.

Progress toward more democratic government for Barbados was made in 1951, when universal adult suffrage was introduced. This was followed by steps toward increased self-government, and in 1961, Barbados achieved internal autonomy.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of 10 members of the West Indies Federation, and Sir Grantley Adams served as its first and only prime minister. When the federation was terminated, Barbados reverted to its former status as a self-governing colony. Following several attempts to form another federation composed of Barbados and the Leeward and Windward Islands, Barbados negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30, 1966.

References

  • Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
  • Hoyes, F. A. 1963. The Rise of West Indian Democracy: The Life and Times of Sir Grantley Adams. Advocate Press.
  • Williams, Eric . 1964. British Historians and the West Indies. P.N.M. Publishing Company, Port-of-Spain.

Further reading

  • Michener, James, A. 1989. Caribbean. Secker & Warburg. London. ISBN 0-436-27971-1 (Especially see Chap. V., "Big Storms in Little England", pp. 140-172.
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