Barbados in the Past and in the Present

Barbados' past is heavily influenced by its British and African roots

Photo credit: © Onepony |

Evidence of settlers in Barbados, namely the Arawaks, has been found as far back as 1600 B.C. While both the Spanish and Portuguese landed on the island, it was the British who ultimately claimed it in 1625. The influence of the British and their West African slaves is seen in everything from music to architecture.


Barbados is the easternmost island of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies.  The island is surrounded by coral reef, and known for its lowlands that are separated by rolling hills.  Barbados has a total area of 166 square miles, and an elevation that at its highest point reaches 1,120 feet above sea level.


The long association between Britain and Barbados has created a largely Anglican culture and the world's third parliamentary democracy. This is a representative government in which the dominant party in the legislature determines who the country's Prime Minister is.  Today, the Parliament is dominated by two parties, the Barbados Labour Party, and the Democratic Labour Party. 


...most lucrative source of wealth...


Until tourism became popular after World War II, the fortunes of the island's economy rested largely on the ubiquitous sugarcane crops, which were introduced by the Dutch in the first half of the 17th century. It was the widespread planting of sugarcane and the development of plantations that precipitated the importation of thousands of West African slaves into Barbados. Today, 80 percent of Barbados' limestone surface (which makes up 85 percent of the entire island) is covered with sugarcane crops.  The slaves that worked so hard to make this possible gained full independence in 1838 and began to fill important positions in island life, contributing arts, crafts, skilled labor, music, governance, and more.

The Great Depression took a hard toll upon the people of Barbados, and widespread unemployment and poverty caused riots. The British government provided assistance, and the rise of tourism has since proven to be the most lucrative source of wealth for the island.  The tourism industry is the greatest contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product, and over 500 thousand vacationers visit the island each year, a quarter of that from the United States alone.

Barbados gained full independence within the Commonwealth in 1966 and has taken efforts to battle unemployment and promote foreign investment and tourism.

With fine cuisine, energetic music, friendly people, and alluring beaches, Barbados is a captivating blend of African and British cultures.


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