Barbados, an independent island state within the Commonwealth is in the eastern Caribbean. It is one of the youngest of the islands having been created less than one million years ago. The island was created when the Atlantic and Caribbean crustal plates collided and it is thought a volcano erupted shortly after. The coral surrounding the island then began to accumulate and now goes as deep as 300 feet creating a paradise for scuba divers.
There is now proof that the first settlers on Barbados had made their way to the Island from Alaska, travelling down through Canada to the South and finally reaching Venezuela. It was from Venezuela that some then made their way in dug-out canoes to Barbados. These people were the Arawaks, who were a pastoral people. Much later early in the 13th century a taller and stronger race, the Caribs, landed on the island and conquered its peaceful people. Today, however, there are only small numbers of these people, known as the Kaligano, still living on the island.
The English arrived in 1625 and claimed the island for the British throne but did not settle the island until 1627. Convicted criminals and indentured servants were then brought to the Island to work on the tobacco, cotton and sugar plantations. In reality, they were white slaves. Later these white slaves were joined with black slaves from the West coast of Africa, supplied to the Island by Dutch slave traders. Today, the descendants of these slaves live together in St Martin’s River and along the coast.
Slavery was abolished in 1834 and with it came a time of apprenticeship for the people of Barbados. They continued to work without pay, but in return for their labour, were provided with free accommodation by the plantation owners. In 1838 the people of Barbados were finally granted their freedom and so began the development of the multi-ethnic culture of Barbados.
Barbados won its independence from Britain in 1966 but the island has remained true to its British roots, evidence of which can be found in the many colonial buildings and the garrison in Bridgetown.