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A Summary of the History of Barbados

There are so many books written and released on barbados and interesting rogue characters where you can read masterpieces from well-known Barbadian writers, including essayist John Wickham, novelist George Lamming and poet Edward Kamau Braithwaite, winner of the 1994 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University.

Although Barbados has a long oral narrative tradition, the written Barbados literature, first premiered in the 1940s and 1950s in a Barbadian literary magazine called Bim, which was the first showcase of works by various Caribbean writers destined for future fame.

This 167 square mile country is believed to be inhabited by Amerindians from Venezuela around 350-400 AD. The Arawak people were the next wave of migrants followed by the Caribs.

Around the mid-1500s to 1600s, the Portuguese claimed this island but did not make it a colony. They left the island to seek larger territories to claim in South America.

In 1625, British ships landed in Barbados and claimed the land in the name of King James I. The British wasted no time building settlements on the island within two years. No other foreign power tried to seize Barbados from the British and British rule was basically uninterrupted.

During the 1600s through 1800s, Barbados was typically a slave island. British lords brought slaves from Africa who made them work the plantations. Tobacco was Barbados’ first planting crop but was later replaced by sugar. The sugar industry developed and in only a few years became its main commercial product.

Where there is slavery, there is suppression and discontent, precursors to rebellion. The slaves occasionally revolted but the rebellion in 1816 led by Bussa was the most tragic so far. Bussa was able to command twenty thousand slaves from 70 plantations. Whites were driven away from the plantations, but no white blood was shed. The British lords responded by killing 120 slaves in dispersing the rebellion and another 144 were executed. Most of the rebels were sent to other territories.

Slavery was abolished around 1834 throughout the British Empire. The slaves in Barbados however did not get freedom right away. They were first engaged in an apprenticeship program for four years before being released. However, the politics and economy of Barbados were in the hands of the plantation owners. It was only in 1949 that government controls were wrested from plantation owners. Sir Grantley Adams was the first Barbadian minister to be free from undue influence from plantation owners.

Finally, in 1966, Barbados gained full independence. Today, Barbados continues to have a strong presence in the sugar industry but has also developed other industries such as tourism and insurance (captive insurance).

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Hi, my name’s Betty Owens.

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