Introduction The island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. Slaves worked the sugar plantations established on the island until 1834 when slavery was abolished. The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s led to complete independence from the UK in 1966. In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.


According to accounts by descendants of the aboriginal Arawak tribes on other local islands, the original name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim.

The origin of the name "Barbados" is controversial. The Portuguese, en route to Brazil are credited as the first European nation to discover and name the island. It is a matter of conjecture whether the word "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, to bearded Caribs inhabiting the island, or to the foam spraying over the outlying reefs giving the impression of a beard. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Vesconte de Maggiola showed and named Barbados in its correct position north of the island of Tobago.

Early history
Main article: Early history of Barbados

The first indigenous people were Amerindians who arrived here from Venezuela around approximately 350-400 B.C. The Arawak people were the second wave of migrants, arriving from South America around 800. In the thirteenth century, the Caribs arrived from South America in the third wave, displacing both the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid. For the next few centuries, the Caribs — like the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid — lived in isolation on the island.

The Portuguese then briefly claimed Barbados from the mid 1500s to the 1600s, their conquistadors may have seized the indigenous Caribs on Barbados and used them as slave labour. Other Caribs are believed to have fled the island to neighbouring islands. Apart from possibly displacing the Caribs, the Portuguese left little impact and by the 1610s, they left for South America leaving the island uninhabited.

British colonial rule
Main article: Colonial history of Barbados

British sailors who landed on Barbados in 1625 arrived at the site of present-day Holetown. At the time only feral pigs which were left behind from the Portuguese. 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.

Starting in the 1620s, an increasing number of black slaves were brought to the isle. 5000 locals died of fever in 1647 and hundreds of slaves were executed by Royalist planters during the English Civil War in the 1640s, because they feared that the ideas of the Levellers might spread to the slave population if Parliament took control of Barbados.

Large numbers of Celtic people, mainly from Ireland and Scotland, went to Barbados as indentured servants. Over the next several centuries the Celtic population was used as a buffer between the Anglo-Saxon plantation owners and the larger African population, variously serving as members of the Colonial militia and playing a strong role as allies of the larger African slave population in a long string of colonial rebellions. As well, in 1659 the English shipped many Irishmen and Scots off to Barbados as slaves, and King James II and others of his dynasty also sent Scots and English off to the isle: for example, after the crushing of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. The modern descendants of this original slave population are some of the poorest inhabitants of modern Barbados. There has also been large-scale intermarriage between the African and Celtic populations on the islands and many Bajans are of European Creole descent. There was also a pattern of wartime immigration, of Jews escaping The Inquisition.

With the increased implementation of slave codes, which created differential treatment between Africans and the white settlers, the island became increasingly unattractive to poor whites. Black or slave codes were implemented in 1661, 1676, 1682, and 1688. In response to these codes, several slave rebellions were attempted or planned during this time, but none succeeded. However, an increasingly repressive legal system caused the gap between the treatment of typically white indentured servants and black slaves to widen. Imported slaves became much more attractive for the rich planters who would increasingly dominate the island not only economically but also politically. Some have speculated that, because the Africans could withstand tropical diseases and the climate much better than the white slave population, the white population decreased. This is inconsistent with the fact that many poor whites simply migrated to neighbouring islands and remained in tropical climates. Nevertheless, as those poor whites who had or acquired the means to emigrate often did so, and with the increased importation of African slaves, Barbados turned from mainly Celtic in the seventeenth century to overwhelmingly black by the nineteenth century.

Barbados eventually had one of the world's biggest sugar industries after migrant Brazilian Jews introduced the sugarcane to the island in the 1800s. This quickly replaced Tobacco plantations on the islands which were previously the main export. As the sugar industry developed into its main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates that replaced the smallholdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers moved to British colonies in North America, most notably South Carolina, Panama and British Guiana. To work the plantations, West Africans were transported and enslaved on Barbados and other Caribbean islands. The British abolished the slave trade in 1807. In 1816, the continuation of slavery caused the largest major slave rebellion in the island's history. 20,000 slaves from over 70 plantations rebelled. Whites were driven off of plantations, yet mass killings were avoided. Later termed “Bussa’s Rebellion” after the slave ranger Bussa who with his assistants hated slavery, found the treatment of slaves on Barbados to be “intolerable,” and believed the political climate in Britain made the time ripe to peacefully negotiate with planters for freedom (Davis, p. 211, Northrup, p. 191). Brussa’s Rebellion failed. 120 died in combat or were immediately executed; another 144 were brought to trial and executed; remaining rebels were shipped off the island (Davis, pp. 212-213). Slavery was abolished in the British Empire 18 years later in 1834. In Barbados and the rest of the British West Indian colonies, full emancipation from slavery was preceded by an apprenticeship period that lasted four years.

In 1884, the Barbados Agricultural Society sent a letter to Sir Francis Hincks requesting his private and public views on whether the Dominion of Canada would favourably entertain having the then colony of Barbados admitted as a member of the Canadian Confederation. Asked of Canada were the terms of the Canadian side to initiate discussions, and whether or not the island of Barbados could depend on the full influence of Canada in getting the change agreed to by Britain. Then in 1952 the Barbados Advocate newspaper polled several prominent Barbadian politicians, lawyers, businessmen, the Speaker of the Barbados House of Assembly and later as first President of the Senate, Sir Theodore Branker, Q.C. and found them to be in favour of immediate federation of Barbados along with the rest of the British Caribbean with complete Dominion Status within five years from the date of inauguration of the West Indies Federation with Canada.

However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, owing to the high income qualification required for voting. More than 70% of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party, then known as the Barbados Progressive League, in 1938. Though a staunch supporter of the monarchy, Adams and his party demanded more rights for the poor and for the people. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949 governmental control was wrested from the planters and, in 1958, Adams became Premier of Barbados.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, an organisation doomed by nationalistic attitudes and by the fact that its members, as colonies of Britain, held limited legislative power. Adams served as its first and only "Premier", but his leadership failed in attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defence of the monarchy was used by his opponents as evidence that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country. Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, became the new people's advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams' conservative government. Barrow instituted many progressive social programmes, such as free education for all Barbadians, and the School Meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.

With the Federation dissolved, Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30,1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister.

Geography Location: Caribbean, island in the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela
Geographic coordinates: 13 10 N, 59 32 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 431 sq km
land: 431 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 97 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; rainy season (June to October)
Terrain: relatively flat; rises gently to central highland region
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Hillaby 336 m
Natural resources: petroleum, fish, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 37.21%
permanent crops: 2.33%
other: 60.46% (2005)
Irrigated land: 50 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.1 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.09 cu km/yr (33%/44%/22%)
per capita: 333 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: infrequent hurricanes; periodic landslides
Environment - current issues: pollution of coastal waters from waste disposal by ships; soil erosion; illegal solid waste disposal threatens contamination of aquifers
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: easternmost Caribbean island

Barbados has been an independent state in the Commonwealth since November 30, 1966. It functions as a parliamentary democracy modeled on the British Westminster system. Its Parliament comprises thirty seats. It has been proposed that Barbados become a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, with a ceremonial president replacing the British Sovereign. This issue is still being debated, as the island has been stable and governmentally autonomous for decades and the Crown's position is strictly nominal.

Barbados is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which currently pertains only to Barbados and Guyana but is expected to replace the UK Privy Council for the entire English-speaking Caribbean eventually, and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

Barbados has a two party system, the two dominant parties being the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had been in government for fifteen years, since the year 1993 until the 2008 general election. Under this administration, the Former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur also acted as the Regional Leader of the CSM (Caribbean Single Market). The Right Honorable David Thompson is the current Prime Minister of Barbados.

People Population: 280,946 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 19.7% (male 27,659/female 27,573)
15-64 years: 71.4% (male 98,633/female 102,020)
65 years and over: 8.9% (male 9,662/female 15,399) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 35 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 36 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.369% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 12.61 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.61 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.01 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.003 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.967 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.627 male(s)/female
total population: 0.938 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 11.55 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.88 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73 years
male: 71.02 years
female: 75.01 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.65 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.5%; (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Barbadian(s) or Bajan (colloquial)
adjective: Barbadian or Bajan (colloquial)
Ethnic groups: black 90%, white 4%, Asian and mixed 6%
Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%
Languages: English
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 99.7%
male: 99.7%
female: 99.7% (2002 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Barbados
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Bridgetown
geographic coordinates: 13 06 N, 59 37 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 11 parishes and 1 city*; Bridgetown*, Christ Church, Saint Andrew, Saint George, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, Saint Michael, Saint Peter, Saint Philip, Saint Thomas
Independence: 30 November 1966 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 30 November (1966)
Constitution: 30 November 1966
Legal system: English common law; no judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Clifford Straughn HUSBANDS (since 1 June 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister David THOMPSON (since 16 January 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; the prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (21 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, 2 on the advice of the opposition leader, and 7 at his discretion) and the House of Assembly (30 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Assembly - last held 15 January 2008 (next to be called in 2013)
election results: House of Assembly - percent of vote by party - DLP 52.5%, BLP 47.3%; seats by party - DLP 20, BLP 10
Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Judicature (judges are appointed by the Service Commissions for the Judicial and Legal Services); Caribbean Court of Justice is the highest court of appeal
Political parties and leaders: Barbados Labor Party or BLP [Owen ARTHUR]; Democratic Labor Party or DLP [David THOMPSON]; People's Empowerment Party or PEP [David COMISSIONG]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Barbados Secondary Teachers' Union or BSTU [Patrick FROST]; Barbados Union of Teachers or BUT [Herbert GITTENS]; Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados or CTUSAB, which includes the BWU, NUPW, BUT, and BSTU [Leroy TROTMAN]; Barbados Workers Union or BWU [Leroy TROTMAN]; Clement Payne Labor Union [David COMISSIONG]; National Union of Public Workers [Joseph GODDARD]
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Michael Ian KING
chancery: 2144 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-9200
FAX: [1] (202) 332-7467
consulate(s) general: Miami, New York
consulate(s): Los Angeles
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Mary M. OURISMAN
embassy: U.S. Embassy, Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael
mailing address: P. O. Box 302, Bridgetown; CMR 1014, APO AA 34055
telephone: [1] (246) 436-4950
FAX: [1] (246) 429-5246, 429-3379
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), gold, and blue with the head of a black trident centered on the gold band; the trident head represents independence and a break with the past (the colonial coat of arms contained a complete trident)

The influence of the English on Barbados is more noticeable than on other islands in the West Indies. A good example of this is the island's national sport: cricket. Barbados has brought forth several great cricket players, including Garfield Sobers and Frank Worrell. Citizens are officially called Barbadians; Barbados' residents, however, colloquially refer to themselves or the products of the country as "Bajan". The term "Bajan" may have come from a localized pronunciation of the word Barbadian which at times can sound more like "Bar-bajan".

The largest carnival-like cultural event which takes place on the island is the Crop Over festival.

As in many other Caribbean and Latin American countries, Crop Over is an important event for many people on the island, as well as the thousands of tourists that flock to the island to participate in the annual events.

The Crop Over festival includes various musical competitions and other traditional activities. It gets under way from the beginning of July, and ends with the costumed parade on Kadooment Day, held on the first Monday of August.

Barbados retains a strong British influence and is referred to by its neighbours as "Little England".

Another name associated with Barbados is "Bim" or "Bimshire." According to the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados, "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves. It derives from the phrase "bi mu" from an Igbo phrase, meaning "my people."[4] In colloquial or literary contexts, "Bim" can also take a more deific tone, referring to the "goddess" Barbados.

Economy Economy - overview: Historically, the Barbadian economy was dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities. However, production in recent years has diversified into light industry and tourism, with nearly three-quarters of GDP and 80% of exports being attributed to services. Growth has rebounded since 2003, bolstered by increases in construction projects and tourism revenues - reflecting its success in the higher-end segment. The country enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the region and an investment grade rating which benefits from its political stability and stable institutions. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners and thrive from having the same time zone as eastern US financial centers and a relatively highly educated workforce. The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, to encourage direct foreign investment, and to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $5.53 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $3.739 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $19,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 6%
industry: 16%
services: 78% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 128,500 (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 10%
industry: 15%
services: 75% (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate: 10.7% (2003 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5.5% (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $847 million (including grants)
expenditures: $886 million (2000 est.)
Agriculture - products: sugarcane, vegetables, cotton
Industries: tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export
Industrial production growth rate: -3.2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production: 953 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 886.3 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 1,002 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 9,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 1,666 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 7,071 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 2.5 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 27.97 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 27.97 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 135.8 million cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $385 million (2006)
Exports - commodities: manufactures, sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components
Exports - partners: US 27.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 15%, UK 10.2%, Saint Lucia 7%, Jamaica 6.5%, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 4.3% (2006)
Imports: $1.586 billion (2006)
Imports - commodities: consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, electrical components
Imports - partners: US 37.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 22.6%, UK 5.9% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $2.07 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $620 million (2007)
Debt - external: $668 million (2003)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $5.513 billion (2005)
Currency (code): Barbadian dollar (BBD)
Currency code: BBD
Exchange rates: Barbadian dollars per US dollar - NA (2007), 2 (2006), 2 (2005), 2 (2004), 2 (2003)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 134,900 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 206,200 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: fixed-line teledensity of roughly 50 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density of 75 per 100 persons
domestic: island-wide automatic telephone system
international: country code - 1-246; landing point for the East Caribbean Fiber System (ECFS) optic submarine cable with links to 13 other islands in the eastern Caribbean extending from the British Virgin Islands to Trinidad; satellite earth stations - 1 (Intelsat -Atlantic Ocean); tropospheric scatter to Trinidad and Saint Lucia (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 6, shortwave 0 (2004)
Radios: 237,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus 2 cable channels) (2004)
Televisions: 76,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bb
Internet hosts: 104 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 19 (2000)
Internet users: 160,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 1,600 km
paved: 1,600 km (2004)
Merchant marine: total: 71 ships (1000 GRT or over) 539,579 GRT/793,899 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 13, cargo 39, chemical tanker 6, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 3, refrigerated cargo 5, roll on/roll off 2, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 67 (Bahamas, The 1, Canada 9, Greece 11, India 1, Lebanon 1, Monaco 1, Norway 35, Sweden 5, UK 3)
registered in other countries: 1 (St Vincent and The Grenadines 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Bridgetown
Military Military branches: Royal Barbados Defense Force: Troops Command, Barbados Coast Guard (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; volunteers at earlier age with parental consent; no conscription (2001)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 71,524
females age 18-49: 72,302 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 54,510
females age 18-49: 54,889 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.5% (2006 est.)
Military - note: the Royal Barbados Defense Force includes a land-based Troop Command and a small Coast Guard; the primary role of the land element is to defend the island against external aggression; the Command consists of a single, part-time battalion with a small regular cadre that is deployed throughout the island; it increasingly supports the police in patrolling the coastline to prevent smuggling and other illicit activities (2005)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: in April 2006, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a decision that delimited a maritime boundary with Trinidad and Tobago and compelled Barbados to enter a fishing agreement limiting Barbadian fishermen's catches of flying fish in Trinidad and Tobago's exclusive economic zone; in 2005, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to compulsory international arbitration under UNCLOS challenging whether the northern limit of Trinidad and Tobago's and Venezuela's maritime boundary extends into Barbadian waters; joins other Caribbean states to counter Venezuela's claim that Aves Island sustains human habitation, a criterion under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which permits Venezuela to extend its EEZ/continental shelf over a large portion of the eastern Caribbean Sea
Illicit drugs: one of many Caribbean transshipment points for narcotics bound for Europe and the US; offshore financial center