The island, E of St. Vincent, in the Windward Islands, is the easternmost of the Caribbean islands. It is low and rises gradually toward its highest point at Mt. Hillaby (1,104 ft/336 m). Although there is ample rainfall from June to December, there are no rivers, and water must be pumped from subterranean caverns. About 90% of the population is of African descent, 4% are of European descent, and about 6% are of Asian or mixed descent. English-speaking, the majority of Barbadians are Protestant.
The porous soil and moderate warmth are excellent for the cultivation of sugarcane, which was historically the island's main occupation. Today, sugar and molasses remain important products and are the country's largest exports. The healthful and equable climate makes it a very popular tourist resort, and tourism is the country's largest industry. Manufacturing (largely chemicals, electrical components, clothing, and rum) and banking are growing sectors of the economy. The United States, other Caribbean islands, and Great Britain are the main trading partners.
Although it was probably originally inhabited by Arawaks, it was uninhabited when the English expeditionaries first settled there in 1627 (1605, according to local tradition). Barbados remained a British colony until independence was granted in 1966. During the 19th cent. it was the administrative headquarters of the Windward Islands, but in 1885 it became a separate colony. It later was a member of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958-62). The island became an independent associated state of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1966. The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member Senate appointed by the governor-general and a 17-member elected House of Representatives. The Democratic Labor party (DLP) held power from 1986 until 1994, when the Barbados Labor party (BLP) won a legislative majority; Owen Arthur became prime minister. Arthur and the BLP retained power after the 1999 and 2003 elections. In 2008 the DLP defeated the BLP, and David Thompson became prime minister.
See K. R. Hope, Economic Development in the Caribbean (1986); H. Beckles, A History of Barbados (1990).
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Barbados (Portuguese word for bearded-ones, ), situated just east of the Caribbean Sea, is an independent island nation in the western Atlantic Ocean. At roughly 13° North of the equator and 59° West of the prime meridian, the country lies in the southern Caribbean region, where it is considered a part of the Lesser Antilles. Its closest island neighbours are Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Saint Lucia to the west. To the south lies Trinidad and Tobago—with which Barbados now shares a fixed official maritime boundary—and also the South American mainland. Barbados's total land area is about 430 square kilometres (166 square miles), and is primarily low-lying, with some higher regions in the country's interior. The highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby in the parish of Saint Andrew. The geological composition of Barbados is thought to be of non-volcanic origin and is predominantly composed of limestone-coral formed by subduction of the South American plate colliding with the Caribbean plate. The island's climate is tropical, with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean serving to keep temperatures mild. Some less developed areas of the country contain tropical woodland and mangroves. Other parts of the interior which contribute to the agriculture industry are dotted with large sugarcane estates and wide, gently sloping pastures, with panoramic views down to the coast.
Barbados's human development index ranking is consistently among the top 50 in the world. For example, in 2006, it was ranked 31st in the world, and third in the Americas, behind Canada and the United States.
The origin of the name "Barbados" is controversial. The Portuguese, en route to Brazil are credited as the first Europeans 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 southeast of the island of Dominica.
Another name associated with Barbados or her people is "Bim" or "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain but several theories abound, one theory according to Richard Allsopp and the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados, "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves. It derives from the phrase "bi mu or either ("bem", "Ndi bem", "Nwanyi ibem" or "Nwoke ibem") from an Igbo phrase, meaning "my people." In colloquial or literary contexts, "Bim" can also take a more deific tone, referring to the "goddess" Barbados. The word Bim and Bimshire are recorded in the OED and the Chamber's Twentieth Century Dictionary. Another possible source for "Bim" is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, The Rev. N Greenidge suggested the listing of Bimshire as a county of England. Expressly named were "Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, and Bimshire". Lastly in the Daily Argosy (of Demerara i.e. Guyana) of 1652 it referred to Bim as a possible corruption of the word "Byam" which was a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as Bims and became a word for all Barbadians.
The Portuguese then briefly claimed Barbados from the mid-1500s to the 1600s; and 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.
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 Jews from Brazil introduced the sugarcane to the island in the mid 1600s. 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 other British colonies in the Americas, most notably North and South Carolina, and British Guiana, as well as Panama. 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 seventy 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 the UK made the time ripe to peacefully negotiate with planters for freedom (Davis, p. 211, Northrup, p. 191). Bussa's Rebellion failed. One hundred and twenty 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 eighteen 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 the United Kingdom. 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. 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 British colonies, 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 on 30 November 1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister. Upon independence Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by establishing membership to the Commonwealth of Nations grouping, a year later Barbados' International linkages were expanded by obtaining membership to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Barbados has been an independent country since 30 November 1966. It functions as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, modeled on the British Westminster system, with Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, as head of state represented locally by the Governors-General, Clifford Husbands and the Prime Minister as the head of the government. Its Parliament comprises thirty seats. It has been proposed that Barbados become a republic with a president replacing the Barbadian sovereign; this issue is still being debated, as the island has been stable and governmentally autonomous for decades.
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 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 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 Prime Minister of Barbados.
On 11 April 2006, the 5-Member UNCLOS Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal, presided over by H.E. Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, rendered after two years of international judicial proceedings, the landmark Barbados/Trinidad and Tobago Award, which resolved the maritime boundary delimitation (in the East, Central and West sectors) to satisfaction of both Parties and committed Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago to resolve their fisheries dispute by means of concluding a new Fisheries Agreement.
Barbados is a relatively flat island, rising gently to the central highland region, the highest point being Mount Hillaby, in the Scotland District , at 340 metres (1,100 ft) above sea level. The island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, to the east of the other Caribbean islands. The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from June to October.
Barbados is often spared the worst effects of the region's tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season as its far eastern location in the Atlantic Ocean puts it just outside the principal hurricane strike zone, and a hurricane hits about every 26 years.
In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados' capital and main city, Bridgetown. Locally Bridgetown is sometimes referred to as "The City", but the most common reference is simply "Town". Other towns scattered across the island include Holetown, in the parish of Saint James; Oistins, in the parish of Christ Church, and Speightstown, in the parish of Saint Peter.
It is geologically composed of coral (thick). The land falls in a series of "terraces" in the west and goes into an incline in the east. Most of Barbados is circled by coral reefs.
The climate is moderate tropical with two seasons; dry and wet. The dry season (Dec-May) and wet season (June- Nov) gives an annual rainfall of 40-90 inches (1,000–2,300 mm).
The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage direct foreign investment, and privatize remaining state-owned enterprises. Unemployment has been reduced from around 14 percent in the past to under 10 percent.
The economy contracted in 2001 and 2002 due to slowdowns in tourism, consumer spending and the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but rebounded in 2003 and has shown growth since 2004. Traditional trading partners include Canada, the Caribbean Community (especially Trinidad and Tobago), the United Kingdom and the United States.
Business links and investment flows have become substantial: as of 2003 the island saw from Canada C$25 billion in investment holdings, placing it as one of Canada's top five destinations for Canadian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Businessman Eugene Melnyk of Toronto, Canada, is said to be Barbados' richest permanent resident.
It was thought by key Barbadian industry sources that the year 2006 would have been one of the busiest years for building construction ever in Barbados, as the building-boom on the island entered the final stages for several multi-million dollar projects.
The island of Barbados's lone airport is the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) (IATA identifier BGI). It receives daily flights by several major airlines from points around the globe, as well as several smaller regional commercial airlines and charters. The airport serves as the main air-transportation hub for the Eastern Caribbean. It is undergoing a US$100 million upgrade and expansion.
There are three bus systems running seven days a week (though less frequently on Sundays), and a ride on any of them costs $1.50 BBD. The smaller buses from the two privately-owned systems ("ZRs" and "minibuses") can give change; the larger blue and yellow buses from the government-operated Barbados Transport Board system cannot. Most routes require a connection in Bridgetown. Some drivers within the competitive privately owned systems are reluctant to advise persons to use competing services, even if those would be more suitable.
Some hotels also provide visitors with shuttles to points of interest on the island from outside the hotel lobby. The island also has plentin their native country). There are several locally-owned and -operated vehicle rental agencies in Barbados but there are no multi-national car-rental agencies such as Avis, Europcar or Hertz.
There is also a helicopter shuttle service, which offers air taxi services to a number of sites around the island, mainly on the West Coast tourist belt. Air and water traffic is regulated by the Barbados Port Authority.
Shopping districts are popular in Barbados, with ample duty-free shopping. There is also a festive night-life in mainly tourist areas such as the Saint Lawrence Gap. Other attractions include wildlife reserves, jewellery stores, scuba diving, helicopter rides, golf, festivals (the largest being the annual crop over festival July/Aug), sightseeing, cave exploration, exotic drinks and fine clothes shopping.
- Christ Church|
- St. Andrew
- St. George
- St. James
- St. John
- St. Joseph
- St. Lucy
- St. Michael
Mount Gay Rum Distilleries|
- St. Peter
- St. Philip
- St. Thomas
Barbados has a population of about 279,000 and a population growth rate of 0.33% (Mid-2005 estimates). Close to 90 percent of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as Bajan) are of African descent ("Afro-Bajans"), mostly descendants of the slave labourers on the sugar plantations. The remainder of the population includes groups of Europeans ("Anglo-Bajans" / "Euro-Bajans") mainly from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Chinese locally known as Bajan-Chiney, Bajan Hindus from India and Muslims from Bangladesh and Pakistan, and an influential "Arab-Bajans" group mainly of Christian Syrians and Lebanese descent. On the island are many people of Creole descent, a mixture of Afro-Caribbean and European descent (Primarily British, Irish and Portuguese).
Other groups in Barbados include people from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Barbadians who return after years of residence in the U.S. are called "Bajan Yankees"; this term is considered derogatory by some.
The country's official language is English, the local dialect of which is referred to as Bajan, spoken by most. In religion, most Barbadians are Protestant Christians (67%), chiefly of the Anglican Church, but there are other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish minorities. Barbados is a chief destination for emigrants from the South American nation of Guyana. The biggest communities outside the Afro-Caribbean community are:
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 festival includes 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".
As in other Caribbean countries of British descent, cricket is a favourite sport. In addition to several warm-up matches and six "Super Eight" matches, Barbados hosted the final of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
In golf, the Barbados Open is an annual stop on the European Seniors Tour. In December 2006 the WGC-World Cup took place at the country's Sandy Lane resort on the Country Club course, an eighteen-hole course designed by Tom Fazio.
Motorsports also play a role, with Rally Barbados occurring each summer and currently being listed on the FIA NACAM calendar.
Basketball is a popular sport played at school or college and is increasing in popularity as is volleyball, though volleyball is mainly played inside. At certain beaches such as Brandons beach in St. Michael people do get together to play beach volleyball.
Netball is also popular with women in Barbados.
The national flower is the Pride of Barbados or Caesalpinia pulcherrima (L.) Sw., which grows across the island.
The three points of the trident represent in Barbados the three principles of democracy - "government of, for and by the people." The broken trident is set in a centered vertical band of gold representing the sands of Barbados' beaches. The gold band itself is surrounded on both sides by vertical bands of ultramarine (blue) representing the sea and sky of Barbados.
The design for the flag was created by Grantley W. Prescod and was chosen from an open competition arranged by the Barbados government. Over a thousand entries were received.
The ten official National Heroes of Barbados are: