2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Central & South American Countries; Countries

Flag of Barbados Coat of arms of Barbados
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Pride and Industry"
Anthem: In Plenty and In Time of Need
Location of Barbados
(and largest city)
13°10′N 59°32′W
Official languages English
Government Parliamentary democracy
Constitutional monarchy
 - Monarch Elizabeth II
 - Governor-General Clifford Husbands
 - Prime Minister Owen Arthur
 - From the UK 30 November 1966 
 - Total 431 km² ( 199th)
167 sq mi 
 - Water (%) Negligible
 - July 2005 estimate 279,254 ( 180th)
 - Density 647/km² ( 15th)
1,663/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2006 estimate
 - Total $4.9 billion ( 152nd)
 - Per capita $17,610 ( 39th)
HDI  (2003) 0.878 (High) ( 30th)
Currency Barbados dollar ($) ( BBD)
Time zone ( UTC-4)
Internet TLD .bb
Calling code + 1-246

Barbados is an independent island nation located in the western Atlantic Ocean, just to the east of the Caribbean Sea, found at roughly 13° north of the Equator and 59° west of the Prime Meridian. Located relatively close to South America the nation of Barbados is around 434.5 kilometres (270 miles) northeast of the South American nation of Venezuela.

The closest island neighbours to Barbados are Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines both located to the west Trinidad and Tobago to the south and Grenada to the south-west. Barbados is part of Lesser Antilles.

Barbados possesses a land area of around 430 square kilometres, (166 sq. mi), and is primarily low-lying, with some higher regions in the island's interior. The organic composition of Barbados is thought to be of non-volcanic origin and is predominantly composed of limestone- coral. The island's atmosphere is sub-tropical with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean and some undeveloped areas contain marshes and mangrove swamps. Other parts of the island's interior contributing the island's agricultural sector are dotted with large sugarcane estates and wide gently sloping pastures with many good views down to the sea.

Barbados has one of the highest standards of living and literacy rates in the developing world and, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Barbados is currently the No. 4 most developed of all developing countries in the world. Despite its small geographical size, Barbados constantly ranks in the top 30 (or 31) countries in the HDI (Human Development Index) rankings. The island is also a major tourist destination.


The earliest inhabitants of Barbados were Amerindian nomads. Three waves of migrants moved north toward North America. The first wave was of the Saladoid- Barrancoid group, who were farmers, fishermen, and ceramists that arrived by canoe from South America (Venezuela's Orinoco Valley) around 350 CE. The Arawak people were the second wave of migrants, arriving from South America around 800 CE. Arawak settlements on the island include Stroud Point, Chandler Bay, Saint Luke's Gully, and Mapp's Cave. According to accounts by descendants of the aboriginal Arawak tribes on other local islands, the original name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim. In the 13th century, the Caribs arrived from South America in the third wave, displacing both the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid. For the next few centuries, the Caribs—like the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid—lived in isolation on the island.

The name "Barbados" comes from a Portuguese explorer named Pedro Campos in 1536, who originally called the island Os Barbados ("The Bearded Ones") upon seeing the appearance of the island's fig trees whose long hanging aerial roots, he thought, resembled beards. Between Campos' sighting in 1536 and 1550, Spanish conquistadors seized many Caribs on Barbados and used them as slave labour on plantations. Other Caribs fled the island, moving elsewhere.

British sailors who landed on Barbados in the 1620s at the site of present-day Holetown on the Caribbean coast found the island uninhabited. From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627– 1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639. Among the initial important British figures was Sir William Courten.

Starting in the 1620s an increasing number of black slaves were brought to the isle. 5000 locals died of fever in 1647, and hundreds of slaves were executed by Royalist planters during the English Civil War in the 1640s, as they feared that the ideas of the Levellers might spread to the slave population if Parliament took control of Barbados.

The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl, after Agostino Brunias, 1779
The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl, after Agostino Brunias, 1779

Large numbers of Celtic people, mainly from Ireland and Scotland, went to Barbados as indentured servants. Over the next several centuries the Celtic population was used as a buffer between the Anglo-Saxon plantation owners and the larger African population, variously serving as members of the Colonial militia and playing a strong role as allies of the larger African slave population in a long string of colonial rebellions. As well, in 1659, the English shipped many Irishmen and Scots off to Barbados as slaves. With King James II, and other kings in his dynasty, also sending Scots, and English, off to the isle. For instance in 1685, after the crushing of the Monmouth Rebellion. The modern descendants of this original slave population are sometimes derisively referred to as Red Legs, or locally 'ecky becky' and are some of the poorest inhabitants of modern Barbados. There has also been large scale intermarriage between the African and Celtic populations on the islands. Because the Africans could withstand tropical diseases and the climate much better than the white slave population, and also because those poor whites who had or acquired the means to emigrate often did so, Barbados turned from mainly Celtic in the 17th century to overwhelmingly black by the 20th century.

As the sugar industry developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates that replaced the small holdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers relocated to British colonies in North America, most notably South Carolina. To work the plantations, West Africans were transported and enslaved on Barbados and other Caribbean islands. The slave trade ceased in 1804. Slaves though carried on being oppressed, causing, in 1816, the major slave rebellion, in the isle's history. One thousand people died in the revolt for freedom, with 144 slaves executed, and 123 deported, by the king's army. Eighteen years later slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834. In Barbados and the rest of the British West Indian colonies, full emancipation from slavery was preceded by an apprenticeship period that lasted six years.

However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, due to the high income qualification required for voters. More than 70% of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party, then known as the Barbados Progressive League, in 1938. Though a staunch supporter of the monarchy, Adams and his party demanded more for the poor and for the people. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949 governmental control was wrestled from the planters and, in 1958, Adams became Premier of Barbados.

From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, an organisation doomed by nationalistic attitude and by the fact that its members, as colonies of Britain, held limited legislative power. Adams' leadership of the Federation (he served as its first and only "Prime Minister"), his failed attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defence of the monarchy demonstrated that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country. Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, was to become the new people's advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams' conservative government. To this day, Barrow remains a beloved hero in the eyes of Barbadians, as it was he who instituted many of the reforms and programs currently in place, including free education for all Barbadians, regardless of class or colour, and the School Meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.

With the Federation dissolved, Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30, 1966, with Errol Barrow serving as its first Prime Minister.


Barbados is a parliamentary democracy. Executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is collectively responsible to the Parliament. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General as the member of the House of Assembly best able to command the support of the majority of the members. The Prime Minister usually selects a cabinet from his party members in the legislature. The present government is proposing that Barbados become a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, with a ceremonial president replacing the British Sovereign. This issue is still being hotly debated as the island has been governmentally autonomous for decades.

Barbados has been an independent state in the Commonwealth since November 30, 1966, and as such functions as a parliamentary democracy modelled after the British Westminster system. Control of the government is held by the Cabinet and is responsible to the Parliament, which comrpises a 30-seat House of Assembly and a 21-seat Senate. Barbados is one of the most secure democracies in the Caribbean. Executive power is in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister is usually the leader of the winning party in the elections for the House of Assembly, whose members are elected every five years. The Senate has 21 members, and its members are appointed by the governor general.

Barbados is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) [which currently only pertains to Barbados and Guyana, and is expected to replace the UK Privy Council for the entire English speaking Caribbean eventually], and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).


Map of Barbados
Beach near Bridgetown, Barbados
Beach near Bridgetown, Barbados

Barbados is a relatively flat island, rising gently to the central highland region, the highest point being Mount Hillaby, in the Scotland district, at 336 metres (1,100 ft) above sea level. The island is located in a slightly eccentric position in the Atlantic Ocean, to the east of the other Caribbean islands. The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from June to October.

Barbados is often spared from the amount of tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season due to its far eastern location in the Atlantic Ocean pushing it just outside of the principal hurricane belt. The island does get brushed or hit about every 3 years and the average number of years between direct hurricane hits is about once every 26.6 years.

In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados' capital and chief city Bridgetown. Locally Bridgetown is sometimes referred to as "The City," but the most common reference is simply "Town". Other 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.

The island is 23 kilometres (14 mi) at its widest point, and about 34 kilometres (21 mi) long.


Barbados is currently divided into eleven administrative parishes:


Historically, the economy of Barbados had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but production in recent years has been diversified into the manufacturing and tourism sectors. Offshore finance and information services have become increasingly important foreign exchange earners, and there is also a healthy interest into the island's light manufacturing sector. In the last ten years the Government has been seen as business-friendly and economically sound. Since the late 1990s the island has seen an increasing construction boom, the island began to see new hotels, redevelopments, new homes, office complexes, condominiums, and mansions being developed across the island.

The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage direct foreign investment, and privatize remaining state-owned enterprises. Unemployment has been reduced from high levels of around 14 percent in the past to under 10 percent currently.

The economy contracted in 2001 and 2002 due to slowdowns in tourism, consumer spending and the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but rebounded in 2003 and has showed growth since 2004. Traditional trading partners include Canada, the Caribbean Community (especially Trinidad and Tobago), the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Business links and investment flows have become substantial, as of 2003 the island saw from Canada CAN$25 billion in investment holdings, placing it as one of Canada's top five destinations of Canadian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Businessman Eugene Melnyk of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, is said to be Barbados' richest permanent resident.

In 2004 it was announced that Barbados' Kensington Oval will be one of the final venues hosting the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

It is thought the year 2006 will be one of the busiest years for building construction ever in Barbados, as the building-boom on the island has entered a final stage for several multi-million dollar projects across the island. .

Characteristics and tourist information

The island of Barbados has a single major airport, the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) ( IATA identifier BGI). The Grantley Adams Airport 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. The airport is currently under-going a US$100 million upgrade and expansion.

The island is well developed and there are many local quality-hotels known internationally which offer world-class accommodations. Timeshares are available, and many of the smaller local hotels and private villas which dot the island have space available if booked months in advance. The southern and western coasts of Barbados are popular, with its calm light blue Caribbean sea and fine white and pinkish sandy beaches. Along the island's east coast the Atlantic Ocean side are tumbling waves which are perfect for light surfing, but a little bit risky due to under-tow currents. The 'Soup Bowl' near to Bathsheba is a very popular spot with surfers all year round.

Shopping districts are another treat in Barbados, with ample duty-free shopping. There is also a festive nightlife available in mainly tourist areas like the Saint Lawrence Gap. Other attractions include wildlife reserves, jewelry stores, scuba diving, helicopter rides, golf, festivals (the largest being the annual crop over festival July/Aug), sight seeing, cave exploration, exotic drinks and fine clothes shopping.

Attractions, landmarks and points of interest

Name / Parish Location:

- Christ Church

  • Graeme Hall Swamp
  • St. Lawrence Gap

- St. Andrew

  • Cherry Tree Hill
  • Morgan Lewis Windmill
  • Chalky Mount potteries

- St. George

  • Gun Hill Signal Station
  • Francia Great House
  • Orchid World

- St. James

  • Folkestone Marine Park

- St. John

  • Codrington College
  • St. John Parish Church

- St. Joseph

  • Andromeda Gardens
  • Flower Forest
  • Hackleton's Cliff

- St. Lucy

  • Animal Flower Cave
  • Mount Gay Rum Distilleries

- St. Michael

  • Barbados Historical Museum
  • Bridgetown Synagogue and Cemetery
  • Bussa Emancipation Statue
  • Garrison Savannah
  • Kensington Oval
  • Sharon Moravian Church

- St. Peter

  • Barbados Wildlife Reserve
  • Farley Hill National Park

- St. Philip

  • Sunbury Plantation

- St. Thomas

  • Harrison's Cave
  • Welchman Hall Gully

List of: Cities, towns and villages in Barbados.


Transport on the island is good, with 'route taxis', called "ZR's" (pronounced "Zed-Rs"), travelling to most points on the island. These small buses can at times be crowded, but will usually take the more scenic routes to destinations. These buses generally depart from the capital Bridgetown or from Speightstown in the northern part of the island.

Buses are abundant in Barbados. There are three bus systems running seven days a week (though less frequently on Sundays), and a ride on any of them costs $1.50 BDS. The smaller buses from the two privately owned systems ("ZR's" and "minibuses") can make change; the larger blue buses from the government-operated Barbados Transport Board system cannot. Most routes require a connection in Bridgetown. However, if you wait long enough, you might find a bus that bypasses the capital and takes you right to your destination. Drivers are generally happy to help you get where you're going; however, some drivers within the competitive privately owned systems are reluctant to instruct you to use competing services, even if those would be preferable.

Competition for patrons extends to the bus terminals (sometimes just a parking lot full of buses); it is normal for the 'ZR' bus conductors to attempt to escort you to his vehicle and engage in loud altercations with other drivers and conductors, in competition for your patronage. These altercations, though sometimes dramatic, are less problematic than they usually seem to the unaccustomed.

Some hotels also provide visitors with shuttles to points of interest on the island. Hotel shuttles generally leave right outside of the hotel's lobby. The island also has an abundance of taxis-for-hire, although visitors staying on the island may find this an expensive option. Visitors also have the option of transport by car, presuming that they have a valid driver's license (issued in their native country.) There are several locally owned and operated vehicle rental agencies in Barbados, however there are no multi-national car rental agencies (e.g. Avis, Europcar, Hertz, etc.).


Barbados has a population of about 279,000 and a growth rate of 0.33% (Mid-2005 estimates). Close to 90 percent of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as Bajan) are of African descent ("Afro-Bajans"), mostly descendants of the slave labourers on the sugar plantations. The remainder of the population includes groups of Europeans ("Anglo-Bajans" / "Euro-Bajans"), Chinese locally known as Bajan-Chiney, Bajan Hindus and Muslims, and an influential Middle Eastern ("Arab-Bajans") group mainly of Syrian and Lebanese descent.

Other groups in Barbados include people from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and expatriates from Latin America. Barbadians who return after years of residence in the U.S. are called "Bajan Yankees"; this term is considered derogatory by some.

The country's official language is English, the local dialect of which is referred to as Bajan. While most Barbadians are Protestant Christians (67%), chiefly of the Anglican Church, there are other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu and Muslim minorities. Barbados is currently a chief emigration location from the South American nation of Guyana.


The influence of the English on Barbados is more noticeable than on other islands in the West Indies. A good example of this is the island's national sport: cricket. Barbados has brought forth several great cricket players, including Garfield Sobers and Frank Worrell.

Citizens are officially called Barbadian, however residents of Barbados colloquially refer to themselves or the products of the country as "Bajan". The term "Bajan", may have come from a localized pronunciation of the word Barbadian which at times can sound more like "Bar-bajan". The term Barbadian is used less frequently than is "Bajan".

The largest Carnival cultural event which takes place in Barbados is the Crop Over Festival as known internationally.

As is the case in many of the 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 the island to participate in the annual events.

The Crop Over festival which includes various musical competitions, and other traditional activities usually kicks into high gear from the beginning of July, and ends in its entirety with the costumed parade on Kadooment Day, held on the first Monday of August.:See also: Music of Barbados


There are several sports played in Barbados of which cricket is arguably the favourite (like many other Caribbean countries). Barbados will be playing host to the 2007 Cricket World Cup final, as well as six "Super Eight" matches and several warm-up matches. The final is scheduled to take place on Saturday 28 April, 2007. In golf the Barbados Open is an annual stop on the European Seniors Tour. The 2006 WGC-World Cup will take place at the country's Sandy Lane resort.


  • The island of Barbados was first recorded with the spelling Barbadoes, it also has the nickname of 'Little England', and the British colloquial nickname of 'Bimshire' ("Bim-shur").
  • One of the signatures on the original United States constitution was a Barbadian, as was the printer of the document. .
  • 7 of the first 21 Governors in the U.S. states known as the Carolinas were Barbadians.
  • The 1652, Treaty of Oistins guaranteed that Barbadians were granted 'No Taxation Without Representation' under the British Government.
  • During the 1800s Barbados was said to be one of the healthiest countries in the World.
  • Rum and Grapefruit are said to have been first recorded in Barbados.
  • Brazilian Jews in exile, were the source of the first introduction of the crop sugarcane to Barbados.
  • The British system of Longitude was discovered by charting the distance between Portsmouth, England and Bridgetown, Barbados using the position of the sun in relation to both locations.
  • In 1884, through the Barbados Agricultural Society, Barbados attempted to become one of the earliest, albeit most distant provinces of Canada. This proposal of political association with Canada was later mooted yet again by several politicians of the Senate of Barbados in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Barbados had attempted a political union along with Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago at the suggestion of Trinidad and Tobago's Patrick Manning in the 1990s. The political union was stalled after the then-Prime Minister of Barbados Lloyd Erskine Sandiford became ill and subsequently the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) lost in the general government elections. ,
  • Barbados had a United States military base based in the Parish of Saint Lucy at Harrisons Point, under which secret projects were carried out in Barbados such as Project HARP on Paragon Beach near the airport. It was said the loud explosions could be heard throughout much of the country and it broke many windows .
  • Barbados has one of the most dense road networks in the world, in addition to being one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
  • Barbados has half as many registered cars as citizens in the country.
  • Barbados and Japan have the highest per capita occurrences of centenarians in the world.
  • R&B/ Pop singer Rihanna is from Barbados
  • Singer Nina Simone had an affair with a wellknown Prime Minister of Barbados during her stay on the island in the late 70's. She describes this in her autobiography I Put A Spell On You (1992), and dedicates a song to him on A Single Woman (1993).

National symbols

A yellow and red Poinciana
A yellow and red Poinciana

The national flower is the Pride of Barbados Caesalpinia pulcherrima (L.) Sw. which grows across the island of Barbados.

Golden Shield

The Golden Shield in the Coat of Arms carries two " Pride of Barbados" flowers and the "bearded" fig tree ( Ficus citrifolia or Ficus barbata) which was common on the island at the time of its settlement by the British and contributed to Barbados being so named.

Coat of arms

The coat of arms depicts two animals which are supporting the shield. On the left is a dolphin, symbolic of the fishing industry and sea-going past of Barbados. On the right is a pelican, symbolic of a small island named Pelican Island that once existed off the coast of Bridgetown. Above the shield is the helmet of Barbados with an extended arm clutching two sugar-cane stalks. The "cross" formation made by the cane stalks represents the cross upon which Saint Andrew was crucified. On the base of the Coat of Arms reads "Pride and Industry" in reference to the country's motto.

National Heroes

There are 10 Barbados national heroes.

  • Errol Barrow
  • Sir Grantley Adams ( )
  • Bussa
  • Sarah Ann Gill
  • Samuel Jackson Prescod
  • Sir Frank Worrell
  • Charles Duncan O'Neal
  • Sir Garfield Sobers
  • Clement Payne
  • Sir Hugh Springer

International rankings

  • - GDP - ( PPP) per capita:
    • 2004: ranked 59 of 232 countries & territories -- $ 15,700 59th
  • Economist, The, Worldwide quality-of-life index:
    • 2005 ranked 33 out of 111 countries 33rd
  • Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal, Index of Economic Freedom countries:
    • 2005 ranked 32 of 155 countries 32nd
  • International Telecommunication Union, Digital Access Index (Top 10 in Americas):
    • 2002: ranked 45 of 178 countries 45th
  • Literacy rate, countries by literacy rate - by UNDP
    • 2005: ranked 23rd of 177 countries -- 99.7%
  • Reporters without borders:
    • 2004: N/A
  • Save the Children, State of the World’s Mothers:
    • 2004: N/A
  • Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index:
    • 2004: ranked 21 out of 146 countries surveyed 21st
  • UN, Human Development Index (HDI):
    • 2005: ranked 30th out of 177 countries 30th (3rd in the Americas, after Canada and the United States
    • 2004: ranked 29th out of 177 countries 29th
    • 2003: ranked 27th out of 175 countries 27th
    • 2002: ranked 31st out of 173 countries 31st
    • 2001: ranked 31st out of 162 countries 31st
    • 2000: ranked 30th out of 174 countries 30th
    • 1999: ranked 29th out of 174 countries 29th
    • 1998: N/A
  • World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report/Growth Competitiveness Index:
    • 2006- 2007: ranked 31st out of 125 countries 31st (Barbados' debute to the list)
  • World Bank:
    • Total GDP per capita
      • 2003 (World Bank): ranked 38 -- $ 15,712
    • Total GDP (nominal)
      • 2003: ranked 138 -- $ 2,628

Some information in this article has been taken from the CIA World Factbook, 2000 edition.

This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook (2003 edition) which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.

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