Barbados is an independent country, formerly a British colony, and the most easterly island of the West Indies. Its capital and only port of entry is Bridgetown.
The island is underlain with folded sedimentary deposits, and a surface layer of coral attains 90 m (300 ft) in thickness. In the northeastern parts, erosion has exposed rugged ridges and ravines. The climate is warm and pleasant. The average annual temperature is about 27 C (80 F), and little daily or annual variation occurs. A dry season (from December to May) alternates with a wet season. The average annual rainfall is about 1,500 mm (60 in).
Barbados is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Nearly 90% of the island’s population is black.
The production of sugarcane and its by-products, molasses and rum, long a mainstay of the Barbadian economy, has been replaced by tourism as the chief industry. The development of light industry, offshore banking, and fishing and the diversification of agriculture have been encouraged by the government.
Barbados was settled by English colonists in 1627. To work the sugarcane plantations, slaves were brought from Africa, a practice abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. Dominance by a small group of British landowners continued, and a political rights movement began, resulting in the founding of the Barbados Labour party (BLP) in 1938 and an offshoot, the Democratic Labour party (DLP), in 1955. Barbados became independent on Nov. 30, 1966. Errol Barrow of the DLP, the first premier, was succeeded by Tom Adams of the BLP, who held office from 1976 until his death in 1985. The DLP returned to power under Barrow (198687) and Lloyd Erskine Sandiford (198794). Owen Arthur of the BLP became premier after elections in 1994 and was returned to office in a landslide victory in 1999.
In 1997, Barbados hosted a regional summit attended by the leaders of the English-speaking Caribbean nations and U.S. president Bill Clinton. Late the following year, a constitutional commission recommended that Barbados become a republic and replace the British monarch with an elected president as head of state.
Thomas D. Boswell
Bibliography: Beckles, H. M., A History of Barbados (1990); Butler, K. M., The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 18231843 (1995); Davis, K., Cross and Crown in Barbados (1983); Levy, C., Emancipation, Sugar, and Federalism (1980); Payne, A. J., and Sutton, P. K., eds., Dependency under Challenge: The Political Economy of the Commonwealth Caribbean (1984); Richardson, B. C., and Lowenthal, D., Economy and Environment in the Caribbean: Barbados and the Windwards in the Late 1800s (1998).