Barbados history books usually start with Barbados' early years, when the island was inhabited by the Arawak Indians of South America. The first Europeans to arrive in Barbados were the Portuguese, who arrived in the early 16th century. The British arrived shortly after and established formal settlements in the year 1627. Many people who visit the country notice how similar Barbados culture is to British culture. This cultural resemblance dates back the year 1663 when Barbados was declared a British colony. Although Barbados officially gained full independence in the year 1966, the establishment of Barbados as a British colony was an important event in the history of Barbados and continues to have influence on Barbados culture and political climate to this day. Barbados social history includes the enslaving of thousands of Africans who were forced to work on sugar plantations up until the time when slavery was abolished in the mid eighteen hundreds. After the abolishment of slavery, many people, most notably women, faced discrimination. Although the country has worked towards attitudes of equality, the people of Barbados haven't forgotten the often turbulent Barbados social history.
Many people who study Barbados culture wonder how the name "Barbados" came
about. The word 'Barbados' means 'bearded
one' in Portuguese. Some people believe that the
Portuguese explorers named the country after a large tree
called the "bearded fig tree." When the tree
gets large enough, it resembles a person with a large
beard. Other experts on the history of Barbados believe
that Barbados came about when Portuguese sailors who were
embarking upon Barbados thought that the trees lining
the coast resembled enormous bearded giants.
Despite the ups and downs of Barbados social history, the country's government today is extremely stable and the economy of Barbados is thriving. Although sugar production has traditionally been a driving force for the economy throughout Barbados history, the Barbados tourism industry has surpassed sugar production as the strongest industry. Oil production is also important to Barbados. Ever since the mid 1990's, the Barbados government has been actively exploring the coasts for oil.
Today, Barbados enjoys a great transportation infrastructure and continues to make progress in its national
goal: to become the smallest developed nation in the world.
People from all over the world travel to Barbados to go snorkeling, diving,
and do some tax free shopping.
Although Barbados is a modern country in so many ways,
you can still see pieces of Barbados history in the old
churches of Christ Church and Bridgetown. Visitors
can also learn more about the history of Barbados by taking
a visit to the Barbados Museum on the south coast of Barbados.
You'll see Arawak artifacts that date all the way
back to 400 B.C. as well as relics from the European discovery