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What Should I Know About Barbados?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Barbados is a small island country in the Caribbean. It covers 167 square miles (431 sq. km), making it a bit more than twice as large as Washington, DC. The nation is a part of the Lesser Antilles island chain, which include the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Barts, Anguilla, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, and others. The island is located roughly 270 miles (435 km) north of Venezuela.

The early history of Barbados follows that of most of the Lesser Antilles. The island was first inhabited in the 4th century by members of the Saladoid-Barrancoid group, moving north from Venezuela. Sometime in the 9th century the Arawaks arrived, co-existing with the Saladoid-Barrancoid people. In the 13th century the Caribs showed up, supplanting both the Saladoid-Barrancoid people and the Arawaks, and settling Barbados extensively.

Barbados abolished slavery in 1834.
Barbados abolished slavery in 1834.

The Spanish first arrived on Barbados sometime in the 16th century. They did not settle the islands particularly, but did seize many Caribs to use as slaves on nearby plantations, and killed others who resisted. The remaining Caribs abandoned the island in the wake of the Spanish conquest. The island then remained dormant for another hundred years, until the British arrived in the early 17th century, finding an uninhabited island with a climate ideal for crops.

Barbados is a popular destination for cruise ships.
Barbados is a popular destination for cruise ships.

The British imported large numbers of African slaves to Barbados, and later brought in Irish and Scottish workers as indentured servants, and still later as slaves themselves. The Celts and the Africans worked together in a number of slave revolts in the early years, but eventually the Celtic population of Barbados decreased, and by the 19th century the island was predominantly black. Slavery was eventually abolished in 1834, but a de facto slavery continued for some years afterwards.

Barbados began moving towards a more democratic system in the 1930s, and the black population of the island began gaining more power, eventually wresting power from the white landowners around the 1950s. In the late-1950s and early-1960s Barbados was a part of the West Indies Federation, along with a number of nearby islands, until the group fell apart because of internal bickering in 1962. Barbados eventually achieved independence following negotiations with Britain in 1966.

Barbados is a beautiful Caribbean island, offering many of the same attractions as nearby islands. Beautiful nature preserves, pristine waters, and silky white beaches are the major reasons people visit Barbados, but the country also has a lively nightlife after the sun has gone down.

Flights arrive daily to Bridgetown from a number of North American cities, as well as Europe and other locations in the Caribbean. Bridgetown is also a very popular destination for cruise ships, and many yachts berth there every year.

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    • Barbados abolished slavery in 1834.
      By: Andrii Salivon
      Barbados abolished slavery in 1834.
    • Barbados is a popular destination for cruise ships.
      By: Rawpixel
      Barbados is a popular destination for cruise ships.