History of Barbados

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Barbados was inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs at the time of European colonization in the 16th century. The island was a British colony from 1625 until 1966. Since 1966, it has been a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, modelled on the British Westminster system, with Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, as head of state.


Early history

Some evidence exists that Barbados may have been settled in the second millenium BC, but this is limited to fragments of conch lip adzes found in association with shells radiocarbon dated to c.1630 BC.[1] Fully documented Amerindian settlement dates to between about 350 to 650 AD, by a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid, who arrived from mainland South America. A second wave of migrants appeared around the year 800 (the Spanish referred to these people as "Arawaks") and a third in the mid-1200s (called "Caribs" by the Spanish). This last group was more politically organised and came to rule over the others. The arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century led to a massive decline in the Amerindian population of Barbados so that by 1541 a Spanish writer could claim they were uninhabited. The Amerindians were either captured for use as slaves by the Spanish or fled to other, more easily defensible mountainous islands nearby.[2]

Early British colonization

Although Spanish and Portuguese sailors had visited Barbados, the British were the first Europeans to colonise the islands. They first arrived in 1625 and claimed it in the name of King James I of England. This first ship, which arrived on 14 May, was captained by John Powell. The first settlement landed some time later on 17 February 1627, near what is now Holetown (formerly Jamestown).[3] The group was led by John Powell's younger brother, Henry, who arrived with 80 settlers and 10 slaves—these first ten slaves were among the sometimes kidnapped and other times runaway English or Irish youth. This settlement was funded by Sir William Courten, a London merchant who owned the title to Barbados and several other unclaimed islands. Thus, the first colonists were actually tenants and the profits of their labour returned to Courten and his company.

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