Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America, and the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. It is 34 kilometres (21 miles) in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is in the western part of the North Atlantic, 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea. Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, at roughly 13°N of the equator. It is about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 180 km (110 mi) south-east of Martinique and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.
Coat of arms
Motto: "Pride and Industry"
Anthem: "In Plenty and In Time of Need"
and largest city
|Recognised regional languages||Bajan Creole|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
• Prime Minister
|House of Assembly|
• From the United Kingdom
|30 November 1966|
|439 km2 (169 sq mi) (183rd)|
• Water (%)
• 2019 estimate
• 2010 census
|660/km2 (1,709.4/sq mi) (15th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2019)|| 0.814|
very high · 58th
|Currency||Barbadian dollar ($) (BBD)|
|Time zone||UTC−4 (AST)|
|Calling code||+1 -246|
|ISO 3166 code||BB|
Inhabited by Kalinago people since the 13th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Barbados was invaded by Spanish navigators in the late 15th century and claimed for the Spanish Crown. It first appeared on a Spanish map in 1511. The Portuguese Empire claimed the island between 1532 and 1536, but later abandoned it in 1620 with their only remnants being an introduction of wild boars for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. An English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados on 14 May 1625; its men took possession of the island in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and Barbados became an English and later British colony. During this period, the colony operated on a plantation economy, relying on the labour of enslaved Africans which worked on the island's plantations. The slave trade to the island continued until it was outlawed by the Slave Trade Act 1807, with final emancipation of the enslaved population in Barbados occurring over a period of years following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
On 30 November 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as its queen, though the country is planning to remove her as its head of state and become a republic by 30 November 2021. The population of 287,010 is predominantly of African descent. Despite being classified as an Atlantic island, Barbados is considered to be part of the Caribbean and is ranked as one of its leading tourist destinations. About 40% of Barbados's tourists come from the UK, and the next largest groups of visitors come from the US and Canada.
The name "Barbados" is from either the Portuguese term os barbudos or the Spanish equivalent, los barbudos, both meaning "the bearded ones". It is unclear whether "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, or to the allegedly bearded Caribs who once inhabited the island, or, more fancifully, to a visual impression of a beard formed by the sea foam that sprays over the outlying coral reefs. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Visconte Maggiolo showed and named Barbados in its correct position. Furthermore, the island of Barbuda in the Leewards is very similar in name and was once named "Las Barbudas" by the Spanish.
The original name for Barbados in the Pre-Columbian era was Ichirouganaim, according to accounts by descendants of the indigenous Arawakan-speaking tribes in other regional areas, with possible translations including "Red land with white teeth" or "Redstone island with teeth outside (reefs)" or simply "Teeth".
Colloquially, Barbadians refer to their home island as "Bim" or other nicknames associated with Barbados, including "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain, but several theories exist. The National Cultural Foundation of Barbados says that "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves, and that it derives from the Igbo term bém from bé mụ́ meaning "my home, kindred, kind", the Igbo phoneme [e] in the Igbo orthography is very close to //. The name could have arisen due to the relatively large percentage of enslaved Igbo people from modern-day southeastern Nigeria arriving in Barbados in the 18th century. The words "Bim" and "Bimshire" are recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionaries. Another possible source for "Bim" is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, where the Rev. N. Greenidge (father of one of the island's most famous scholars, Abel Hendy Jones 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, there is a reference to Bim as a possible corruption of "Byam", the name of a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as "Bims" and that this became a word for all Barbadians.
Archeological evidence suggests humans may have first settled or visited the island circa 1600 BC. More permanent Amerindian settlement of Barbados dates to about the 4th to 7th centuries AD, by a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid. The two main groups were the Arawaks from South America, who became dominant around 800–1200 AD, and the more war-like Kalinago (Island Caribs) who arrived from South America in the 12th–13th centuries
It is uncertain which European nation arrived first in Barbados, which probably would have been at some point in the 15th century or 16th century. One lesser-known source points to earlier revealed works predating contemporary sources indicating it could have been the Spanish. Many, if not most, believe the Portuguese, en route to Brazil, were the first Europeans to come upon the island. The island was largely ignored by Europeans, though Spanish slave raiding is thought to have reduced the native population, with many fleeing to other islands.
English settlement in the 1600s
The first English ship, which had arrived on 14 May 1625, was captained by John Powell. The first settlement began on 17 February 1627, near what is now Holetown (formerly Jamestown), by a group led by John Powell's younger brother, Henry, consisting of 80 settlers and 10 English indentured labourers. Some sources state that some Africans were amongst these first settlers.
The settlement was established as a proprietary colony and funded by Sir William Courten, a City of London merchant who acquired the title to Barbados and several other islands. So the first colonists were actually tenants and much of the profits of their labour returned to Courten and his company. Courten's title was later transferred to James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle, in what was called the "Great Barbados Robbery". Carlisle then chose as governor Henry Hawley, who established the House of Assembly in 1639, in an effort to appease the planters, who might otherwise have opposed his controversial appointment.
In the period 1640–60, the West Indies attracted over two-thirds of the total number of English emigrants to the Americas. By 1650 there were 44,000 settlers in the West Indies, as compared to 12,000 on the Chesapeake and 23,000 in New England. Most English arrivals were indentured. After five years of labour, they were given "freedom dues" of about £10, usually in goods. Before the mid-1630s, they also received 5 to 10 acres (2 to 4 hectares) of land, but after that time the island filled and there was no more free land. During the Cromwellian era (1650s) this included a large number of prisoners-of-war, vagrants and people who were illicitly kidnapped, who were forcibly transported to the island and sold as servants. These last two groups were predominantly Irish, as several thousand were infamously rounded up by English merchants and sold into servitude in Barbados and other Caribbean islands during this period, a practice that came to be known as being Barbadosed. Cultivation of tobacco, cotton, ginger and indigo was thus handled primarily by European indentured labour until the start of the sugar cane industry in the 1640s and the growing reliance on and importation of enslaved Africans.
Life in the young colony was not easy, with parish registers from the 1650s show, for the white population, there were four times as many deaths as marriages. The mainstay of the infant colony's economy was the growth export of tobacco, but tobacco prices eventually fell in the 1630s as Chesapeake production expanded.
Effects of the English Civil War
Around the same time, fighting during the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Interregnum spilled over into Barbados and Barbadian territorial waters. The island was not involved in the war until after the execution of Charles I, when the island's government fell under the control of Royalists (ironically the Governor, Philip Bell, remaining loyal to Parliament while the Barbadian House of Assembly, under the influence of Humphrey Walrond, supported Charles II). To try to bring the recalcitrant colony to heel, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act on 3 October 1650 prohibiting trade between England and Barbados, and because the island also traded with the Netherlands, further navigation acts were passed prohibiting any but English vessels trading with Dutch colonies. These acts were a precursor to the First Anglo-Dutch War. The Commonwealth of England sent an invasion force under the command of Sir George Ayscue, which arrived in October 1651. Ayscue with a smaller force which included Scottish prisoners surprised a larger force of Royalists, but had to resort to spying and diplomacy ultimately. On January 11, 1652, the Royalists in the House of Assembly led by Lord Willoughby surrendered which marked the end of royalist privateering as a major threat. The conditions of the surrender were incorporated into the Charter of Barbados (Treaty of Oistins), which was signed at the Mermaid's Inn, Oistins, on 17 January 1652.
Irish people in Barbados
Starting with Cromwell, a large percentage of the white labourer population were indentured servants and involuntarily transported people from Ireland. Irish servants in Barbados were often treated poorly, and Barbadian planters gained a reputation for cruelty.:55 The decreased appeal of an indenture on Barbados, combined with enormous demand for labour caused by sugar cultivation, led to the use of involuntary transportation to Barbados as a punishment for crimes, or for political prisoners, and also to the kidnapping of labourers who were sent to Barbados involuntarily.:55 Irish indentured servants were a significant portion of the population throughout the period when white servants were used for plantation labour in Barbados, and while a "steady stream" of Irish servants entered the Barbados throughout the seventeenth century, Cromwellian efforts to pacify Ireland created a "veritable tidal wave" of Irish labourers who were sent to Barbados during the 1650s.:56 Due to inadequate historical records, the total number of Irish labourers sent to Barbados is unknown, and estimates have been "highly contentious".:56 While one historical source estimated that as many as 50,000 Irish people were transported to either Barbados or Virginia unwillingly during the 1650s, this estimate is "quite likely exaggerated".:56 Another estimate that 12,000 Irish prisoners had arrived in Barbados by 1655 has been described as "probably exaggerated" by historian Richard B. Sheridan.:236 According to historian Thomas Bartlett, it is "generally accepted" that approximately 10,000 Irish were sent to the West Indies involuntarily, and approximately 40,000 came as voluntary indentured servants, while many also travelled as voluntary, un-indentured emigrants.:256
The sugar revolution
The introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil in 1640 completely transformed society, the economy and the physical landscape. Barbados eventually had one of the world's biggest sugar industries. One group instrumental in ensuring the early success of the industry was the Sephardic Jews, who had originally been expelled from the Iberian peninsula, to end up in Dutch Brazil. As the effects of the new crop increased, so did the shift in the ethnic composition of Barbados and surrounding islands. The workable sugar plantation required a large investment and a great deal of heavy labour. At first, Dutch traders supplied the equipment, financing, and enslaved Africans, in addition to transporting most of the sugar to Europe. In 1644 the population of Barbados was estimated at 30,000, of which about 800 were of African descent, with the remainder mainly of English descent. These English smallholders were eventually bought out and the island filled up with large sugar plantations worked by enslaved Africans. By 1660 there was near parity with 27,000 blacks and 26,000 whites. By 1666 at least 12,000 white smallholders had been bought out, died, or left the island, many choosing to emigrate to Jamaica or the American Colonies (notably the Carolinas). As a result, Barbados enacted a slave code as a way of legislatively controlling its black enslaved population. The law's text was influential in laws in other colonies.
18th and 19th centuries
The harsh conditions endured by the slaves resulted in several planned slave rebellions, the largest of which was Bussa's rebellion in 1816 which was suppressed by British troops. Growing opposition to slavery led to its abolition in the British Empire in 1833. The plantocracy class retained control of political and economic power on the island, with most workers living in relative poverty.
20th century – colonial period
Deep dissatisfaction with the situation on Barbados led many to emigrate. Things came to a head in the 1930s during the Great Depression, as Barbadians began demanding better conditions for workers, the legalisation of trade unions and a widening of the franchise, which at that point was limited to male property owners. As a result of the increasing unrest the British sent a commission (The West Indies Royal Commission, or Moyne Commission) in 1938, which recommended enacting many of the requested reforms on the islands. As a result, Afro-Barbadians began to play a much more prominent role in the colony's politics, with universal suffrage being introduced in 1950.
Prominent among these early activists was Grantley Herbert Adams, who helped found the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in 1938. He became the first Premier of Barbados in 1953, followed by fellow BLP-founder Hugh Gordon Cummins from 1958 to 1961. A group of left-leaning politicians who advocated swifter moves to independence broke off from the BLP and founded the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1955. The DLP subsequently won the 1961 Barbadian general election and their leader Errol Barrow became premier.
Full internal self-government was enacted in 1961. Barbados joined the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962, later gaining full independence on 30 November 1966. Errol Barrow became the country's first prime minister. Barbados opted to remain within the Commonwealth of Nations, retaining Queen Elizabeth as Monarch, represented locally by a Governor General.
The Barrow government sought to diversify the economy away from agriculture, seeking to boost industry and the tourism sector. Barbados was also at forefront of regional integration efforts, spearheading the creation of CARIFTA and CARICOM. The DLP lost the 1976 Barbadian general election to the BLP under Tom Adams. Adams adopted a more conservative and strongly pro-Western stance, allowing the Americans to use Barbados as the launchpad for their invasion of Grenada in 1983. Adams died in office in 1985 and was replaced by Harold Bernard St. John, however he lost the 1986 Barbadian general election which saw the return of the DLP under Errol Barrow, who had been highly critical of the US intervention in Grenada. However Barrow too died in office, and was replaced by Lloyd Erskine Sandiford who remained Prime Minister until 1994.
Owen Arthur of the BLP won the 1994 Barbadian general election, remaining Prime Minister until 2008. Arthur was a strong advocate of republicanism, though a planned referendum to replace Queen Elizabeth as Head of State in 2008 never took place. The DLP won the 2008 Barbadian general election, however the new Prime Minister David Thompson died in 2010 and was replaced by Freundel Stuart. The BLP returned to power in 2018 under Mia Mottley, who became Barbados's first female Prime Minister.
Plan to remove the monarchy
The government of Barbados announced on 15 September 2020 that it intends to become a republic by 30 November 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence. If the plan is achieved (with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Parliament), the Queen and Governor-General will be replaced by the country's own head of state. Barbados will then cease to be a Commonwealth realm, but could maintain membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. One news report stated that Guyana, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, already had such a relationship with the UK: a "loose association of former British colonies and current dependencies".
In late 2020, the British media reported that the CIA had spread an allegation to the Second Johnson ministry that Barbados was dropping the Queen as Chief of State to appease the Chinese government.
The former Barbadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Guy Hewitt, pointed to the Windrush scandal as a sign that many Barbadians are losing confidence in Britain and support a reduction in the ties between the two nations.
"The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state," according to a speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley in her September 2020 Throne Speech. Her predecessor as PM, Freundel Stuart, had also espoused moving to a republican system. Whether that goal can be achieved during 2021 is "not clear", according to an investigation of the situation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in March 2021. After a request from the CBC, the government did not provide a timeline for the process. The last Caribbean country that attempted a switch to a republican form of Government was neighbouring Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009, which held a referendum on the measure that failed. In 2016 neighbouring Grenada attempted a referendum which would have updated the oath of office among other things, it posed specifically that the nation would have changed the oath to pledge allegiance going forward to "Grenada" rather than the "Queen" as well, a change in line with Jamaica's current Oath.
Geography and climate
Barbados is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the other West Indies Islands. Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles. It is flat in comparison to its island neighbours to the west, the Windward Islands. The island rises gently to the central highland region known as Scotland District, with the high point of the nation being Mount Hillaby 340 m (1,120 ft) above sea level.
In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados's capital and main city, Bridgetown, containing one third of the country's population. Other major 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.
Barbados lies on the boundary of the South American and the Caribbean Plates. The subduction of the South American plate beneath the Caribbean plate scrapes sediment from the South American plate and deposits it above the subduction zone forming an accretionary prism. The rate of this depositing of material allows Barbados to rise at a rate of about 25 mm (1 in) per 1,000 years. This subduction means geologically the island is composed of coral roughly 90 m (300 ft) thick, where reefs formed above the sediment. The land slopes in a series of "terraces" in the west and goes into an incline in the east. A large proportion of the island is circled by coral reefs.
The erosion of limestone in the northeast of the island, in the Scotland District, has resulted in the formation of various caves and gullies. On the Atlantic east coast of the island coastal landforms, including stacks, have been created due to the limestone composition of the area. Also notable in the island is the rocky cape known as Pico Teneriffe or Pico de Tenerife, which is named after the fact that the island of Tenerife in Spain is the first land east of Barbados according to the belief of the locals.
The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall. Known as the "wet season", this period runs from June to December. By contrast, the "dry season" runs from December to May. Annual precipitation ranges between 1,000 and 2,300 mm (40 and 90 in). From December to May the average temperatures range from 21 to 31 °C (70 to 88 °F), while between June and November, they range from 23 to 31 °C (73 to 88 °F).
On the Köppen climate classification scale, much of Barbados is regarded as a tropical monsoon climate (Am). However, breezes of 12 to 16 km/h (7 to 10 mph) abound throughout the year and give Barbados a climate which is moderately tropical.
Infrequent natural hazards include earthquakes, landslips, and hurricanes. Barbados is often spared the worst effects of the region's tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season. Its location in the south-east of the Caribbean region puts the country just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. On average, a major hurricane strikes about once every 26 years. The last significant hit from a hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955; in 2010 the island was struck by Hurricane Tomas, but this caused only minor damage across the country as it was only at Tropical Storm level of formation.
Barbados is susceptible to environmental pressures. As one of the world's most densely populated isles, the government worked during the 1990s to aggressively integrate the growing south coast of the island into the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant to reduce contamination of offshore coral reefs. As of the first decade of the 21st century, a second treatment plant has been proposed along the island's west coast. Being so densely populated, Barbados has made great efforts to protect its underground aquifers.
As a coral-limestone island, Barbados is highly permeable to seepage of surface water into the earth. The government has placed great emphasis on protecting the catchment areas that lead directly into the huge network of underground aquifers and streams. On occasion illegal squatters have breached these areas, and the government has removed squatters to preserve the cleanliness of the underground springs which provide the island's drinking water.
The government has placed a huge emphasis on keeping Barbados clean with the aim of protecting the environment and preserving offshore coral reefs which surround the island. Many initiatives to mitigate human pressures on the coastal regions of Barbados and seas come from the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU). Barbados has nearly 90 kilometres (56 miles) of coral reefs just offshore and two protected marine parks have been established off the west coast. Overfishing is another threat which faces Barbados.
Although on the opposite side of the Atlantic, and some 4,800 kilometres (3,000 miles) west of Africa, Barbados is one of many places in the American continent that experience heightened levels of mineral dust from the Sahara Desert. Some particularly intense dust episodes have been blamed partly for the impacts on the health of coral reefs surrounding Barbados or asthmatic episodes, but evidence has not wholly supported the former such claim.
Access to biocapacity in Barbados is much lower than world average. In 2016, Barbados had 0.17 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, much less than the world average of 1.6 global hectares per person. In 2016 Barbados used 0.84 global hectares of biocapacity per person - their ecological footprint of consumption. This means they use approximately five times as much biocapacity as Barbados contains. As a result, Barbados is running a biocapacity deficit.
Barbados is host to four species of nesting turtles (green turtles, loggerheads, hawksbill turtles, and leatherbacks) and has the second-largest hawksbill turtle-breeding population in the Caribbean. The driving of vehicles on beaches can crush nests buried in the sand and such activity is discouraged in nesting areas.
Barbados is also the host to the green monkey. The green monkey is found in West Africa from Senegal to the Volta River. It has been introduced to the Cape Verde islands off north-western Africa, and the West Indian islands of Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Martin, and Barbados. It was introduced to the West Indies in the late 17th century when slave trade ships travelled to the Caribbean from West Africa. The green monkey in most cases, is well known to be a very curious and mischievous/troublesome creature to the locals on the island.
The life expectancy for Barbados residents as of 2019 is 79 years. The average life expectancy is 83 years for females and 78 years for males (2019). Barbados and Japan have the highest per capita occurrences of centenarians in the world.
The crude birth rate is 12.23 births per 1,000 people, and the crude death rate is 8.39 deaths per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate is 11.63 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Close to 90% of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as "Bajan") are of Afro-Caribbean descent ("Afro-Bajans") and mixed descent. The remainder of the population includes groups of Europeans ("Anglo-Bajans" / "Euro-Bajans") mainly from the United Kingdom and Ireland, Italians, and Asians, predominantly Chinese and Indians (both Hindu and Muslim). Other groups in Barbados include people from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Barbadians who return after years of residence in the United States and children born in America to Bajan parents are called "Bajan Yankees", a term considered derogatory by some. Generally, Bajans recognise and accept all "children of the island" as Bajans, and refer to each other as such.
The biggest communities outside the Afro-Caribbean community are:
- The Indo-Guyanese, an important part of the economy due to the increase of immigrants from partner country Guyana. There are reports of a growing Indo-Bajans diaspora originating from Guyana and India starting around 1990. Predominantly from southern India, they are growing in size but are smaller than the equivalent communities in Trinidad and Guyana. Archived 11 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine, 7 September 2006; British Broadcasting Corporation (Caribbean Bureau)</ref> The Muslim Barbadians of Indian origin are largely of Gujarati ancestry. Many small businesses in Barbados are run and operated by Muslim-Indian Bajans.
- Euro-Bajans (5% of the population) have settled in Barbados since the 17th century, originating from England, Ireland, Portugal, and Scotland. In 1643, there were 37,200 whites in Barbados (86% of the population). More commonly they are known as "White Bajans". Euro-Bajans introduced folk music, such as Irish music and Highland music, and certain place names, such as "Scotland District", a hilly region in the parish of St. Andrew. Among White Barbadians there exists an underclass known as Redlegs comprising followers of the Duke of Monmouth after his defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor, as well as the descendants of Irish indentured labourers and prisoners imported to the island. Many additionally moved on to become the earliest settlers of modern-day North and South Carolina in the United States. Today the Redlegs number only around 400.
- Chinese-Barbadians are a small portion of Barbados's wider Asian population. Most if not all first arrived in the 1940s from Hong Kong during the Second World War. Many Chinese-Bajans have the surnames Chin, Chynn or Lee, although other surnames prevail in certain areas of the island. Chinese food and culture is becoming part of everyday Bajan culture.
- Lebanese and Syrians form the island's Arab Barbadian community, which is overwhelmingly Christian Arab. The Muslim Arab minority among Arab Barbadian make up a small percentage of the overall minority Muslim Barbadian population. The majority of the Lebanese and Syrians arrived in Barbados through trade opportunities. Their numbers are falling due to emigration to other countries.
- Jews arrived in Barbados just after the first settlers in 1627. Bridgetown is the home of Nidhe Israel Synagogue, one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in the Americas, dating from 1654, though the current structure was erected in 1833, replacing one ruined by the hurricane of 1831. Tombstones in the neighbouring cemetery date from the 1630s. Now under the care of the Barbados National Trust, the site was deserted in 1929 but was saved and restored by the Jewish community beginning in 1986.
- In the seventeenth century, Romani people were sent from the United Kingdom to work as slaves in the plantations in Barbados.
English is the official language of Barbados, and is used for communications, administration, and public services all over the island. In its capacity as the official language of the country, the standard of English tends to conform to vocabulary, pronunciations, spellings, and conventions akin to, but not exactly the same as, those of British English. For most people, however, Bajan Creole is the language of everyday life. It does not have a standardised written form, but it is used by over 90% of the population.
Most Barbadians of African and European descent are Christians (95%), the largest denomination being Anglican (40%). Other Christian denominations with significant followings in Barbados are the Catholic Church (administered by Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgetown), Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Spiritual Baptists. The Church of England was the official state religion until its legal disestablishment by the Parliament of Barbados following independence.
Government and politics
Barbados has been an independent country since 30 November 1966. It functions as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy modelled on the British Westminster system. The Queen of Barbados, Elizabeth II, is head of state and is represented locally by the Governor-General of Barbados—presently Sandra Mason. Both are advised on matters of the Barbadian state by the Prime Minister of Barbados, who is head of government. There are 30 representatives within the House of Assembly.
The Constitution of Barbados is the supreme law of the nation. The Attorney General heads the independent judiciary. New Acts are passed by the Barbadian Parliament and require royal assent by the governor-general to become law.
During the 1990s at the suggestion of Trinidad and Tobago's Patrick Manning, Barbados attempted a political union with Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. The project stalled after the then prime minister of Barbados, Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, became ill and his Democratic Labour Party lost the next general election. Barbados continues to share close ties with Trinidad and Tobago and with Guyana, claiming the highest number of Guyanese immigrants after the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Barbados functions as a two-party system. The dominant political parties are the Democratic Labour Party and the incumbent Barbados Labour Party. Since Independence on 30 November 1966, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has governed from 1966 to 1976; 1986 to 1994; and from 2008 to 2018; and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has also governed from 1976 to 1986; 1994 to 2008; and from 2018 to present. The Democratic Labour Party government (DLP) held office with the then Premier of Barbados became Prime Minister of Barbados, Errol Barrow for three successive terms from 4 December 1961 to 2 September 1976; and again from 28 May 1986 until his sudden death in office on 1 June 1987. The 4th Prime Minister, Sir. Lloyd Sandiford took over with the Democratic Labour Party government (DLP) from 1 June 1987 to 20 January 1991; and from 20 January 1991 to 6 September 1994. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) held office with the then Prime Minister, Tom Adams from 2 September 1976 to 18 June 1981; and from 18 June 1981 until his sudden death in office on 11 March 1985. The 3rd Prime Minister, Sir. Harold St. John took over with the Barbados Labour Party government (BLP) from 11 March 1985 to 28 May 1986. The BLP held power from 6 September 1994 to 15 January 2008. The Democratic Labour Party government (DLP) held power with the then 6th Prime Minister, David Thompson from 15 January 2008 until his death in office on 23 October 2010. The 7th Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart took over with the Democratic Labour Party government (DLP) from 23 October 2010 to 21 February 2013; and from 21 February 2013 to 24 May 2018 for the general elections for the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP). All of Barbados' Prime Ministers, except Freundel Stuart, held under the Ministry of Finance's portfolio. The Barbados Labour Party government (BLP) held power with the now 8th Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley from 24 May 2018 to present until the next general election on 24 May 2023.
Barbados follows a policy of nonalignment and seeks cooperative relations with all friendly states. Barbados is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). Organization of American States (OAS), Commonwealth of Nations, and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In 2005 the Parliament of Barbados voted on a measure replacing the UK's Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
World Trade Organization, European Commission, CARIFORUM
Barbados is an original member (1995) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and participates actively in its work. It grants at least MFN treatment to all its trading partners. European Union relations and cooperation with Barbados are carried out both on a bilateral and a regional basis. Barbados is party to the Cotonou Agreement, through which As of December 2007 it is linked by an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Commission. The pact involves the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) subgroup of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). CARIFORUM is the only part of the wider ACP-bloc that has concluded the full regional trade-pact with the European Union. There are also ongoing EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues.
Trade policy has also sought to protect a small number of domestic activities, mostly food production, from foreign competition, while recognising that most domestic needs are best met by imports.
The Double Taxation Relief (CARICOM) Treaty 1994
On 6 July 1994, at the Sherbourne Conference Centre, St. Michael, Barbados, representatives of eight countries signed the Double Taxation Relief (CARICOM) Treaties 1994. The countries which were represented were: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
On 19 August 1994 a representative of the Government of Guyana signed a similar treaty.
The Barbados Defence Force has roughly 800 members. Within it, 14- to 18-year-olds make up the Barbados Cadet Corps. The defence preparations of the island nation are closely tied to defence treaties with the United Kingdom, the United States, and the People's Republic of China.
The Royal Barbados Police Force is the sole law enforcement agency on the island of Barbados.
Barbados is divided into 11 parishes:
St. George and St. Thomas are in the middle of the country and are the only parishes without coastlines.
Barbados is the 53rd richest country in the world in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, has a well-developed mixed economy, and a moderately high standard of living. According to the World Bank, Barbados is classified as being in its 66 top high income economies of the world. Despite this, a 2012 self-study in conjunction with the Caribbean Development Bank revealed 20% of Barbadians live in poverty, and nearly 10% cannot meet their basic daily food needs.
Historically, the economy of Barbados had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but since the late 1970s and early 1980s it has diversified into the manufacturing and tourism sectors. Offshore finance and information services have become important foreign exchange earners, and there is a healthy light manufacturing sector. Since the 1990s the Barbados Government has been seen as business-friendly and economically sound. The island saw a construction boom, with the development and redevelopment of hotels, office complexes, and homes, partly due to the staging of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. This slowed during the 2008 to 2012 world economic crisis and the recession.
There was a strong economy between 1999 and 2000 but the economy went into recession in 2001 and 2002 due to slowdowns in tourism, consumer spending and the impact of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States and the 7 July 2005 London bombings in the United Kingdom. The economy rebounded in 2003 and has shown growth since 2004 which continued right through to 2008. The economy went into recession again from 2008 to 2013 before showing growth from 2014 to 2017. Then it declined to another recession from 2017 to 2019 during the world economic crisis. There were 23 downgrades by both Standard & Poor's and Moody's in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The economy showed signs of recovery with 3 upgrades from Standard and Poor's and Moody's in 2019. From 1 January to 31 March 2020 the economy had started to grow, but then it experienced another decline due to the COVID-19 economic recession.
Traditional trading partners include Canada, the Caribbean Community (especially Trinidad and Tobago), the United Kingdom and the United States. Recent government administrations have continued efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage foreign direct investment, and privatise remaining state-owned enterprises. Unemployment was reduced to 10.7% in 2003. However, it has since increased to 11.9% in second quarter, 2015.
Barbados maintains the third largest stock exchange in the Caribbean region. As of 2009, officials at the stock exchange were investigating the possibility of augmenting the local exchange with an International Securities Market (ISM) venture.
Sovereign default and restructuring
By May 2018, Barbados' outstanding debt climbed to US$7.5 billion , more than 1.7 times the country's GDP. In June 2018 the government defaulted on its sovereign debt when it failed to make a coupon on Eurobonds maturing in 2035. Outstanding bond debt of Barbados reached US$4.4 billion .
In October 2019, Barbados concluded restructuring negotiations with a creditor group including investments funds Eaton Vance Management, Greylock Capital Management, Teachers Advisors and Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry. Creditors will exchange existing bonds for a new debt series maturing in 2029. The new bonds involve a principal "haircut" of approximately 26% and include a clause allowing for deferment of principal and capitalization of interest in the event of a natural disaster.
Barbados has many health centres. However, the main hospital on the island is The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The Barbados literacy rate is ranked close to 100%. The mainstream public education system of Barbados is fashioned after the British model. The government of Barbados spends 6.7% of its GDP on education (2008).
All young people in the country must attend school until age 16. Barbados has over 70 primary schools and over 20 secondary schools throughout the island. There is a number of private schools, including Montessori and the International Baccalaureate. Student enrolment at these schools represents less than 5% of the total enrolment of the public schools.
Certificate-, diploma- and degree-level education in the country is provided by the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, Codrington College, and the Cave Hill campus and Open Campus of the University of the West Indies. Barbados is also home to several overseas medical schools, such as Ross University School of Medicine and the American University of Integrative Sciences, School of Medicine.
Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination: Children who are 11 years old on 1 September in the year of the examination are required to write the examination as a means of allocation to secondary school.
Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations are usually taken by students after five years of secondary school and mark the end of standard secondary education. The CSEC examinations are equivalent to the Ordinary Level (O-Levels) examinations and are targeted toward students 16 and older.
Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) are taken by students who have completed their secondary education and wish to continue their studies. Students who sit for the CAPE usually possess CSEC or an equivalent certification. The CAPE is equivalent to the British Advanced Levels (A-Levels), voluntary qualifications that are intended for university entrance.
Barbados is a blend of West African, Portuguese, Creole, Indian and British cultures. Citizens are officially called Barbadians. The term "Bajan" (pronounced BAY-jun) may have come from a localised pronunciation of the word Barbadian, which at times can sound more like "Bar-bajan"; or, more likely, from English bay ("bayling"), Portuguese baiano.
The largest carnival-like cultural event that takes place on the island is the Crop Over festival, which was established in 1974. 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 there to participate in the annual events. The festival includes musical competitions and other traditional activities, and features the majority of the island's homegrown calypso and soca music for the year. The male and female Barbadians who harvested the most sugarcane are crowned as the King and Queen of the crop. Crop Over gets under way at the beginning of July and ends with the costumed parade on Kadooment Day, held on the first Monday of August. New calypso/soca music is usually released and played more frequently from the beginning of May to coincide with the start of the festival.
Bajan cuisine is a mixture of African, Indian, Irish, Creole and British influences. A typical meal consists of a main dish of meat or fish, normally marinated with a mixture of herbs and spices, hot side dishes, and one or more salads. A common Bajan side dish could be pickled cucumber, fish cakes, bake, etc. The meal is usually served with one or more sauces. The national dish of Barbados is cou-cou & flying fish with spicy gravy. Another traditional meal is "Pudding and Souse" a dish of pickled pork with spiced sweet potatoes. A wide variety of seafood and meats are also available.
The Mount Gay Rum visitors centre in Barbados claims to be the world's oldest remaining rum company, with earliest confirmed deed from 1703. Cockspur Rum and Malibu are also from the island. Barbados is home to the Banks Barbados Brewery, which brews Banks Beer, a pale lager, as well as Banks Amber Ale. Banks also brews Tiger Malt, a non-alcoholic malted beverage. 10 Saints beer is brewed in Speightstown, St. Peter in Barbados and aged for 90 days in Mount Gay 'Special Reserve' Rum casks. It was first brewed in 2009 and is available in certain Caricom nations.
The music of Barbados includes distinctive national styles of folk and popular music, including elements of Western classical and religious music. The culture of Barbados is a syncretic mix of African and British elements, and the island's music reflects this mix through song types and styles, instrumentation, dances, and aesthetic principles..Barbadian folk traditions include the Landship movement, which is a satirical, informal organization based on the Royal Navy, tea meetings, tuk bands and numerous traditional songs and dances. In modern Barbados, popular styles include calypso, spouge, contemporary folk and world music. Barbados is, along with Guadeloupe, Martinique, Trinidad, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, one of the few centres for Caribbean jazz.
|1 January||New Year's Day|
|21 January||Errol Barrow Day||A day of recognition for Errol Barrow the Father of the Nation since 21 January 1989.|
|March or April||Good Friday||Friday, date varies|
|March or April||Easter Monday||Monday, date varies|
|28 April||National Heroes' Day||A day of recognition for Barbados's national heroes since 28 April 1998.|
|1–7 May||Labour Day||1st Monday in May, date varies|
|May or June||Whit Monday||Monday, date varies|
|1 August||Emancipation Day||The date on which slavery was abolished on the island since 1 August 1997.|
|1–7 August||Kadooment Day||1st Monday in August, date varies|
|30 November||Independence Day||The anniversary of Barbadian national independence, from the United Kingdom on 30 November 1966.|
|25 December||Christmas Day|
|26 December||Boxing Day|
As in other Caribbean countries of British colonial heritage, cricket is very popular on the island. The West Indies cricket team usually includes several Barbadian players. In addition to several warm-up matches and six "Super Eight" matches, the country hosted the final of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Barbados has produced many great cricketers including Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes, Gordon Greenidge, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Joel Garner, Desmond Haynes and Malcolm Marshall.
Rugby is also popular in Barbados.
Horse racing takes place at the Historic Garrison Savannah close to Bridgetown. Spectators can pay for admission to the stands, or else can watch races from the public "rail", which encompasses the track.
Basketball is an increasingly popular sport, played at school or college. Barbados's national team has shown some unexpected results as in the past it beat many much larger countries.
Polo is very popular amongst the rich elite on the island and the "High-Goal" Apes Hill team is based at the St James's Club. It is also played at the private Holders Festival ground.
In golf, the Barbados Open, played at Royal Westmoreland Golf Club, was an annual stop on the European Seniors Tour from 2000 to 2009. In December 2006 the WGC-World Cup took place at the country's Sandy Lane resort on the Country Club course, an 18-hole course designed by Tom Fazio. The Barbados Golf Club is another course on the island. It has hosted the Barbados Open on several occasions.
Volleyball is also popular and is mainly played indoors.
Tennis is gaining popularity and Barbados is home to Darian King, currently ranked 270th in the world and is the 2nd highest ranked player in the Caribbean.
Motorsports also play a role, with Rally Barbados occurring each summer and being listed on the FIA NACAM calendar. Also, the Bushy Park Circuit hosted the Race of Champions and Global RallyCross Championship in 2014.
The presence of the trade winds along with favourable swells make the southern tip of the island an ideal location for wave sailing (an extreme form of the sport of windsurfing).
Barbados also hosts several international surfing competitions.
Netball is also popular with women in Barbados.
Although Barbados is about 34 km (21 mi) across at its widest point, a car journey from Six Cross Roads in St. Philip (south-east) to North Point in St. Lucy (north-central) can take one and a half hours or longer due to traffic. Barbados has half as many registered cars as citizens. In Barbados, drivers drive on the left side of the road.
Barbados is known for its many roundabouts. One famous roundabout is a roundabout located east of Bridgetown, where you will see an emancipation statue of a slave named Bussa.
Transport on the island is relatively convenient with "route taxis" called "ZRs" (pronounced "Zed-Rs") travelling to most points on the island. These small buses can at times be crowded, as passengers are generally never turned down regardless of the number. They will usually take the more scenic routes to destinations. They generally depart from the capital Bridgetown or from Speightstown in the northern part of the island.
Including the ZRs, there are three bus systems running seven days a week (though less frequently on Sundays). There are ZRs, the yellow minibuses and the blue Transport Board buses. A ride on any of them costs Bds$ 3.5. The smaller buses from the two privately owned systems ("ZRs" and "minibuses") can give change; the larger blue buses from the government-operated Barbados Transport Board system cannot, but do give receipts. The Barbados Transport Board buses travel in regular bus routes and scheduled timetables across Barbados. Schoolchildren in school uniform including some Secondary schools ride for free on the government buses and for Bds$ 2.5 on the ZRs. Most routes require a connection in Bridgetown. Barbados Transport Board's headquarters are located at Kay's House, Roebuck Street, St. Michael, and the bus depots and terminals are located in the Fairchild Street Bus Terminal in Fairchild Street and the Princess Alice Bus Terminal (which was formerly the Lower Green Bus Terminal in Jubilee Gardens, Bridgetown, St. Michael) in Princess Alice Highway, Bridgetown, St. Michael; the Speightstown Bus Terminal in Speightstown, St. Peter; the Oistins Bus Depot in Oistins, Christ Church; and the Mangrove Bus Depot in Mangrove, St. Philip. In July 2020, the Barbados Transport Board received 33 BYD electric buses which were obtained not only to add to the aging fleet of diesel buses but also to assist the Government in their goal of eliminating the use of fossil fuels by the year 2030.
Some hotels also provide visitors with shuttles to points of interest on the island from outside the hotel lobby. There are several locally owned and operated vehicle rental agencies in Barbados but there are no multi-national companies.
The island's lone airport is the Grantley Adams International Airport. 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. In the first decade of the 21st century it underwent a US$100 million upgrade and expansion in February 2003 until completion in August 2005.
The island also has a sea port which is the primary port of call for commercial container and cruise traffic.
There was also a helicopter shuttle service, which offered air taxi services to a number of sites around the island, mainly on the West Coast tourist belt. Air and maritime traffic was regulated by the Barbados Port Authority.
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Industry sources are warning, however, that while the boom will bring many jobs and much income, ordinary Barbadians hoping to undertake home construction or improvement will be hard pressed to find materials or labour, given the large number of massive commercial projects with which they will have to compete. ... Construction magnate Sir Charles 'COW' Williams, agreeing that this year will be "without doubt" the biggest ever for the island as far as construction was concerned, revealed that his organisation was in the final stages of the construction of a new US$6 million plant at Lears, St Michael to double its capacity to produce concrete blocks, as well as a new US$2 million plant to supply ready-mixed concrete from its fleet of trucks. "The important thing to keep in mind is that the country will benefit tremendously from a massive injection of foreign exchange from people who want to own homes here," Sir Charles said.
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