Both the Spanish and Portuguese came to Barbados in the 16th Century. Although they did not settle, they were nevertheless responsible for naming the island “Los Barbados” after the Bearded Fig Tree.
The English first came to the island in 1625 and in February 1627 the first settlement was established near what is now Holetown in St. James. Within a few years most of the land had been cleared. Early crops were cotton, tobacco and sugar cane, but sugar would soon become the main source of revenue for the island.
Sugar production was very labour intensive. The slave trade provided a steady flow of forced labour from West Africa, assisted by the ever-reliable trade winds and driven by strong demand for sugar in Europe. Barbados’ prime location enabled it to become an important trading and military outpost.
Slavery was abolished in 1834 and many of the newly free citizens were educated, but there were few other employment prospects. The landowners continued to dominate politics after Emancipation, with the vast majority of the population unable to vote, but in the 1930s the descendants of the slaves began to agitate for political change. In 1942, the vote was extended beyond the wealthy and in 1958 Sir Grantley Adams, founder of the Barbados Labour Party, became Premier of Barbados.
Barbados won independence on 30 November 1966 and has retained the British Monarch as its Head of State, represented by a Governor General. The population has enjoyed nearly fifty years of a stable political environment, with a standard of living that exceeds many of its neighbours and a literacy rate of 99.7%.
The most easterly of the Caribbean islands, Barbados is located in the Southern Caribbean, 100 miles east of the main island chain. This unique position places Barbados just outside of the main path of tropical storms and hurricanes (though we don't know why) and it has not had a direct hit since 1955.
It is hot in Barbados all year round, though it's hotter in the summer. It rains all year round, but more so in the summer months. This makes July and August very humid indeed. Unlike its volcanic neighbours, the island of is composed mostly of coral limestone. This geological make up is responsible for the beautiful white sand beaches, as well as the purity of the underground water.
Modern life is still heavily influenced by the British and African heritages. Barbados was a British colony for more than 300 years and that sense of Britishness remains to this day, which is probably England in the main tourist market. Other people call Barbados "Little England", not always as a compliment!
Yet 93% of the population is of African descent and this heritage permeates the culture through food, music and, of course, dance! If you can stand the heat, go to Barbados in late July/early August for the annual Crop Over festival, when the island will be abuzz with new calypsos, vibrant colours and the best street parties!
With some of the best beaches in the world (see here) you could be forgiven for spending all day on a lounger under a tree! But there is so much more to Barbados than its beaches. Did you know that Bajans were among the first to produce rum? Or that the grapefruit was bred on one of their gullies? Or that their statue of Lord Nelson was erected 27 years before the more famous one in London?
The Barbados Garrison perhaps the most authentic and complete 18th & 19th century British garrison anywhere in the world and boasts a unique collection of English iron cannon from the 17th century. Harrison's Cave is an underground limestone wonderland. Codrington College is this is the oldest theological college in the Western Hemisphere, in a stunning setting overlooking the rugged east coast.
Centuries-old churches, beautiful tropical gardens, a walk-in zoo..and the curious case of John Yeamans, who murdered his neighbour,Colonel Benjamin Berringer, married his widow and took over the plantation, merging it with his own!
See more here.
Sir Garfield Sobers (cricketer), Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (first premier and only prime minister of the West Indies Federation)
Oh, and some singer called Rihanna.
Barbados: it's not just for the rich and famous!