Sir Garfield Sobers, born in Bridgetown in July 1936, was the Wisden
Leading Cricketer in the World in 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966,
1968 and 1970, achieving 8,032 runs and 235 wickets in 93 Test matches.
Austin Ardinel Chesterfield Clarke, born in St James,
Barbados, in July 1934, won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize with
his tenth published novel, The Polished Hoe.
Joined Commonwealth: 1966
Population: 285,000 (2013)
GDP: 0.9% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 59
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT minus 4hr
Currency: Barbados dollar (Bds$)
Area: 431 sq km
Capital city: Bridgetown
Population density (per sq. km): 661
Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, lies south of St
Lucia, east of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and north of Trinidad and
Bridgetown (capital and only seaport, pop. 94,200 in 2010), Speightstown
(2,400), Bathsheba (1,600), Holetown (1,500) and Oistins (1,500);
extensive spread of hotels and apartments along the coast.
A good road network of 1,600km (virtually all paved) covers the entire
island, with a trans-insular highway from Bridgetown to the east coast.
Bridgetown is a deep-water port with a cruiseship terminal and yacht
Grantley Adams International Airport is 13km east of Bridgetown.
Barbados is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of
States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community,
Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States, United Nations
and World Trade Organization.
Barbados is a comparatively flat island, rising in a series of terraced
tablelands to Mount Hillaby at 336m. The northeast (Scotland area) is
broken, eroded and rocky. The rest of the island is coral limestone
crossed with deep river-bed gullies which fill with water during heavy
rain. There are no permanent rivers. On the east coast, much of the
shoreline is rocky, pounded by a strong surf; elsewhere, natural coral
reefs surround turquoise seas and beaches of white sand.
Mild subtropical. In the December-June dry season cooling north-east
trade winds blow steadily; the wet season is humid and hotter, but the
climate is generally pleasant even then, thanks to sea-breezes. The
island is on the southern edge of the West Indian hurricane zone.
The most significant environmental issues are pollution of coastal
waters from waste disposal by ships; soil erosion; and the threatened
contamination of the underground water supply by illegal disposal of
Vestiges of indigenous forest cover 19 per cent of the land area and
there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2011. Sugar
cane and food crops predominate in rural areas. There is a rich
diversity of tropical flowers and flowering trees.
Natural wildlife has largely been displaced by sugar cane but the
Barbados Wildlife Reserve was established in 1985 in the Scotland
district, its 1.6 hectares of mature mahogany trees being the home of
the Barbados green monkey and the red-footed Barbados tortoise.
Prehistoric Barbados is believed to have been inhabited by cave-dwellers
of the Siboney culture, from Florida. At an unknown later time, Arawaks
arrived from South America. The latter were agriculturists, and
excellent weavers and potters. They survived invasions and raids by the
warlike Caribs (also from South America), which took place before the
1490s. By the early 1500s, Spanish and Portuguese sailors had sighted
the island. It was invaded in 1518 by Spanish colonists from Hispaniola.
No Spanish settlement was made, as there appeared to be no mineral
resources, but the island acquired a Spanish name – Barbados (or
‘bearded’), apparently a reference to local fig trees. By 1536 the
island was deserted, either because the slavers had depopulated it or
because the remaining inhabitants had fled.
In 1625 it was formally claimed for King James I of England. In 1627
English immigrants settled there and King Charles I granted a Barbados
patent to Lord Carlisle; after 1660, this patent was surrendered to the
Crown and a 4.5 per cent duty on exports levied, which, bitterly
resented, was levied until 1838. Between 1627 and 1640, the island was
settled by British colonists, who brought with them indentured labour
from Britain and some enslaved Africans, to produce tobacco, cotton and
indigo. The introduction of sugar in the 1650s had led to the
development of large plantations, and by 1685 the population was around
50,000, consisting mainly of African slaves.
By the end of the 18th century, Barbados had 745 plantations worked by
more than 80,000 African and African-descended slaves. Harsh working
conditions led to slave revolts in 1702 and 1816. Slavery was abolished
throughout the British Empire in 1833–34.
Barbados had a house of assembly since 1639 but, due to the property
qualifications for the franchise, this was dominated by
plantation owners until the franchise began to be widened in 1944.
Universal adult suffrage followed in 1951, a full ministerial system in
1954, and cabinet government in 1958.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which developed out of the trade
unions, was set up under the leadership of Grantley Adams, and began
working for economic improvement and the extension of political rights.
The BLP, led first by Adams, and after 1958 by Dr Hugh Cummins, gained a
majority in the House of Assembly between 1944 and 1961. In 1955 a split
in the BLP led to the formation of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP),
led by Errol Barrow, who won the 1962 elections.
Thus, by 1957, Barbados had virtual self-government under a democratic
system, a status formally recognised in 1961. Barbados had been a member
of the Federation of the West Indies, set up in 1958. When the
Federation was dissolved in 1962, the Barbados Government announced its
intention to seek independence separately. Arrangements were agreed at a
constitutional conference in London, and Barbados became an independent
sovereign state within the Commonwealth on 30 November 1966.
The DLP was in power from 1966 to 1976, and the BLP from 1976 to 1986,
led by Tom Adams, Sir Grantley Adams’s son. In 1986 the DLP, still led
by Errol Barrow, won a decisive election victory, maintaining its
majority in the 1991 elections. This was despite a breakaway movement by
DLP dissidents who formed a new National Democratic Party (NDP) but
failed to win any seats in the 1991 elections. Erskine Sandiford became
Prime Minister in June 1987 after the death of Barrow. Sandiford and the
DLP were ousted in September 1994 by the BLP led by Owen Arthur. The BLP
won 19 seats (48.3 per cent of the vote), the DLP eight and NDP one.
The Story of Barbados
Economic & Social Transformation
From Bussa to
Barrow--Barbados History from 1816 to 1966
A true & exact history of the island of Barbados
Illustrated with a map of the island, as also the principall trees and plants there, set
forth in their due proportions and shapes, drawne out by their severall
and respective scales : together with the ingenio that makes the sugar,
with the plots of the severall houses, roomes, and other places, that
are used in the whole processe of sugar-making ... : all cut in copper
by Ligon, Richard; Ogilby (1661) (pdf)
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