Images spéciales
Drapeau de Barbade
Barbade carte
Carte historique de Barbade

General presentation

Map of BarbadosBarbados is the easternmost island of the Caribbean arc and the last one to be "discovered" by the Portuguese explorer Pedro A. Campos in 1536. It is located east of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In 2022, it was populated by 288,092 inhabitants living on a surface of 430 square kilometers (166 sq. mi). The population density is 670 inhabitants per square kilometer, the highest in the Americas.

Formerly known as "Ichirouganaim", which in the Arawak language means "Red Land with White Teeth", the island of Barbados owes its name to either the Portuguese term os barbados, or the Spanish term los barbados, both of which mean "the beards". Both refer to the long hanging roots of the bearded fig tree (Banyan, ficus citrofila) endemic to the island.

Flag of BarbadosSuite à l'adoption d'une loi au Parlement, Barbade est devenue une République parlementaire Unitaire le 30 Novembre 2021. La chef d'État est la Présidente de la République Dame Sandra Mason et le Premier Ministre est Mia Mottley.

Following the passage of an Act of Parliament, Barbados became a Unitary Parliamentary Republic on November 30, 2021. The Head of State is the President of the Republic Dame Sandra Mason and the Prime Minister is Mia Mottley.

The island is divided into 11 parishes: Christ Church, Saint Andrew, Saint George, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, Saint Michael, Saint Peter, Saint Philip and Saint Thomas.

Barbados has a relatively flat terrain with Mount Hillaby as its peak at 336 meters. The capital is Bridgetown and the two other most important cities are Holetown and Speightstown.

On the economic side, the island is one of the richest in the Caribbean arc with a GDP per capita of 17 033,90 USD in 2021. Its currency is the Barbadian dollar.


Barbados would have experienced its first settlement in the 17th century BC but there is still no source today on the name of this people or their origin.

On the other hand, the sources we have today evoke the second settlement of the island by the Arawaks who would have arrived around the 4th century BC from South America.

Subsequently a new wave of news of arrivals will settle around 800 AD and then yet another around 1250.

Contrary to the other islands of the zone, in particular Martinique, there is no evidence that the Carib Indians would have settled permanently in Barbados even if they would have often visited the island in their canoes.

Portuguese navigators will be the first to discover the island. The navigator Pedro A. Campos calls it “Os Barbados” in reference to the bearded fig trees present on the island.

The numerous attacks by the Spaniards on the island led to a sharp decline in the Amerindian population to the point that a Hispanic writer described it as an uninhabited island in 1541. The Amerindians were either used as slaves by the Spaniards who brought them to the most large islands in order to serve as labor in the plantations or else they fled to the more mountainous islands where they could have better defended themselves against the Europeans.

Portuguese navigators who visited the island briefly left behind wild pigs. These would delight the British settlers who would arrive later. The first English to land on the island arrived on May 14, 1625 and were the first to colonize it. On February 17, 1627, the first ship of settlers led by John Powell, William and John arrived with on board 80 white settlers and 10 English laborers in the name of Sir William Courteen, a London merchant who had obtained the property.

Plowers are enslaved and about 40 Tainos brought from Guyana will be brought in to plant crops in the western part of the island.

Subsequently, William Courteen was expropriated by the King for the benefit of a new company assigned to James Hay, commissioned by King Charles I. Courteen lost his title definitively in 1629 and John Powell, the first English navigator to arrive in the island and who had remained in maneuver, was obliged to leave the island. This transfer of ownership was called the "Great Barbados Flight". James Hay appointed Henry Hawley as governor.

As in the French islands, several English indentured servants settled on the island and after five years of work in the fields they were free to return to Europe. A sum of 10 English pounds was granted to them. Before 1630, they also received 5-10 acres of land as a reward for their services. Criminals and rebels to the monarchy were also brought to Barbados. Many Englishmen died on the island where the death rate was very high.

As for plantations, the first crop introduced in the island was tobacco but following the crisis linked to the world overproduction of tobacco in the 1630s, they turned to sugar.

Pieter Blower, a Dutch trader from Brazil, introduced sugar cane to the island and cultivation began in the 1640's. Rum production began in 1642 but sugar production remained the priority. Thus, Barbados was divided into large sugar cane estates, with the rich owners buying up the land from the smaller ones. The latter left the island to settle in the English colonies in North America.

During the English Civil War, the Cavaliers, Jacobite Catholics as well as Irish Catholics persecuted in Ireland, exiled to the island where they invested in sugar plantations.

By the 1940s, Barbados had one of the largest sugar industries in all of America. One of the groups that made this possible were the Jews expelled from Brazil who introduced rum to the island. The Dutch merchants of the area provided equipment, financing, African slaves and got rich by transporting sugar from Barbados to Europe. This is how Barbados became the first sugar producer in the Caribbean.

Governor Henry Hawley instituted life slavery, authorized the slave trade and the trade of the remaining Amerindians on the island. The black population increased in five years from a few hundred to more than 4,000 between 1640 and 1645. It would even reach 20,000 in 1655.

New codes tightening the conditions of slavery were introduced in 1661, 1676, 1682 and 1688 leading to several slave rebellions.

Historical map of BarbadosIn 1652, the Barbados Charter ensured that an assembly would be elected by all colonists in the hope of curbing the emigration of poor tobacco planters to the island, so they took advantage of the conquest of Jamaica to become pirates there.

By 1660, trade in Barbados was more important than in all other English colonies combined. Bridgetown was one of the three largest English cities in America along with Boston and Port Royal in Jamaica.

In 1800 and 1885, Barbados was the seat of government for the British colonies in the Windward Islands, whose governor was also the colonial leader. Later the seat was moved from Bridgetown to St. George's on the island of Grenada.

The slave trade was banned in 1807 and slavery was abolished in 1834 as in all the English colonies, but with a four-year apprenticeship period. The minority of planters remained in power thanks to a very high tax that excluded nearly three-quarters of the population from any participation in political life. The local government asked the British government, which was seeking to consolidate the islands into a single group, to consider a political union with Tobago, but Trinidad was preferred.

In the 1930s, a movement of freed former slaves revolted and trade unions appeared. One of the leaders, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Progressive League, the forerunner of the Barbados Labour Party in 1938. The 1929 depression had hit the island hard and many workers had become unemployed.

The minimum income for voting was lowered in 1942 and universal suffrage was introduced in 1951. Adams was elected Prime Minister in 1953. He undertook various social reforms to fundamentally transform the island, including free education for all inhabitants of Barbados.

Attempts to unite the former British Caribbean colonies under a single federation failed, and in 1966 Barbados gained its independence but retained British protection. Errol Walton Barrow, a staunch reformer who had succeeded Adams, was to have the island become a constitutional monarchy on 30 November 1966.

In 1994, Owen Arthur won the general election in Barbados and became Prime Minister, a role he held until 2008. Arthur was a strong advocate of republicanism. He planned a referendum to poll Barbadians on whether to replace the Queen of England with a President of the Republic. This referendum will never take place.

In 2018, Mia Mottley became the first female Prime Minister of Barbados. On September 15, 2020, the government of Barbados announced its intention to become a republic on November 30, 2021, the anniversary of the island's independence. Barbados would remain a member of the Commonwealth of Nations but would no longer be part of the Commonwealth Kingdom, which considers the King of England as its head of state.

On September 20, 2021, the announcement for the transition was made and a new amendment to the constitution was introduced by the Barbados Parliament. On October 6, 2021, legislation was amended to the Barbados Constitution introducing the office of President of the Republic of Barbados to replace Queen Elizabeth II.

The Governor General of Barbados Sandra Mason was then nominated as a candidate to become the first President of Barbados. She was elected on October 20, 2021. She was inaugurated into office on November 30, 2021 in conjunction with the change in the island's status.

In January 2022, Prime Minister Mia Mottey won the Barbados general election by a wide margin, retaining her role.


Barbados is a wealthy country compared to the other Lesser Antilles islands (2nd GDP/capita) after Martinique. Formerly a British colony, it derives its income from a flourishing tourist industry as well as from the cultivation of sugar cane. Since its independence in 1966, it has succeeded in attracting many foreign investors and capital.

The population is highly literate (99.1% in 2015).

The island is currently still considered a tax haven due to its low taxation and is a flag of convenience.

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