Barbados (bärbā´dōz), island state (2005 est. pop. 279,300), 166 sq mi (430 sq km), in the West Indies. The capital and largest city is Bridgetown.
Land, People, and Economy
The island, E of St. Vincent, in the Windward Islands, is the easternmost of the Caribbean islands. It is low and rises gradually toward its highest point at Mt. Hillaby (1,104 ft/336 m). Although there is ample rainfall from June to December, there are no rivers, and water must be pumped from subterranean caverns. About 90% of the population is of African descent, 4% are of European descent, and about 6% are of Asian or mixed descent. English-speaking, the majority of Barbadians are Protestant.
The porous soil and moderate warmth are excellent for the cultivation of sugarcane, which was historically the island's main occupation. Today, sugar and molasses remain important products and are the country's largest exports. The healthful and equable climate makes it a very popular tourist resort, and tourism is the country's largest industry. Manufacturing (largely chemicals, electrical components, clothing, and rum) and banking are growing sectors of the economy. The United States, other Caribbean islands, and Great Britain are the main trading partners.
Although it was probably originally inhabited by Arawaks, it was uninhabited when the English expeditionaries first settled there in 1627 (1605, according to local tradition). Barbados remained a British colony until independence was granted in 1966. During the 19th cent. it was the administrative headquarters of the Windward Islands, but in 1885 it became a separate colony. It later was a member of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–62). The island became an independent associated state of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1966. The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member Senate appointed by the governor-general and a 17-member elected House of Representatives. The Democratic Labor party (DLP) held power from 1986 until 1994, when the Barbados Labor party (BLP) won a legislative majority; Owen Arthur became prime minister. Arthur and the BLP retained power after the 1999 and 2003 elections. In 2008 the DLP defeated the BLP, and David Thompson became prime minister. Thompson died in 2010 and was succeeded as prime minister by Freundel Stuart. The DLP and Stuart remained in power after the 2013 elections.
See K. R. Hope, Economic Development in the Caribbean (1986); H. Beckles, A History of Barbados (1990).