When the British took possession of Barbados
in the early 17th century, the island was uninhabited.
The economy came to be dominated by sugar cane
cultivation on large plantations where the work was
handled by slaves imported from Africa. Slavery was
abolished in the 1830s, but it was not until 1950 that
universal suffrage was introduced. In 1961, the island
gained greater autonomy and five years later Barbados
became an independent state within the Commonwealth.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Barbados (or
Kalinago), a people who inhabited the islands of the
Caribbean from South America, were on the Caribbean. It
is unclear what happened to them: they may have moved to
other islands or killed by Spanish conquerors in the
early 16th century. When Portuguese sailors came to the
island in the 1530s, it was uninhabited. The Portuguese
called it "the bearded" (Os Barbados), probably after
the beard-like roots of many fig trees.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Barbados, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In 1625, an English sea captain Barbados proclaimed
British colony. In the following decades, thousands of
British colonizers arrived, which came to feed on cotton
and tobacco cultivation.
When Dutch merchants brought the sugar cane to the
island in the 1640s, it became a historic event for
Barbados. The small farmers' tobacco and cotton
production was knocked out. A small group of whites took
control of most of the island's soil and shredded the
forest to make room for sugar plantations. White labor
migration ceased and was replaced by mass imports of
African slaves. In 40 years, almost 50,000 slaves
arrived, while some tens of thousands of landless
Europeans left Barbados.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island
suffered severe economic crises, which were mainly
caused by price falls on sugar and severe hurricanes.
The slaves were cruelly treated and revolted on a couple
of occasions before slavery was abolished in the 1830s.
The majority of blacks remained on the island. However,
the white elite did not let go of political power and
despite some reforms, the majority of blacks remained
without the right to vote.
Political awareness began to emerge among the blacks
after the First World War, but it was only after the
riots and unrest during the 1930s depression that modern
parties formed. In 1938 a left wing was founded by
Grantley Adams. It merged with another political group
and was named Barbados Workers' Party (BLP)).
General voting rights were introduced in 1950. Five
years later, an outbreak group formed from the BLP, led
by Errol Barrow, a party later called the
Democratic Workers' Party (DLP).
In 1961, Barbados gained internal autonomy and in the
election that followed, DLP won. Barrow led the country
to independence in 1966.