Barbados has been an independent country since November 30, 1966. And yet the “Jewel of the Caribbean” is today still known as “Little England,” partly because no other country ever ruled the island, partly because large sections of its interior are lush and green like England, and partly because of lasting British traditions. Also, the bulk of tourists to the island are from the UK.
Barbados Under British Rule ~ Just the Facts
– The British landed along the west coast of Barbados in the 1600s, although it was the Portuguese who named the island Barbados, “the bearded ones,” for the appearance of the island’s fig trees.
– British settlers grew sugar cane and the largest plantations became very wealthy enterprises.
– The plantations would not have been profitable and productive without the slaves imported from Africa to work them.
– The British Crown saw local political power shift from the early British settlers to, gradually, beginning in the 1930s, the descendants of the slaves.
– Grantley Adams was the first to push for independence from British rule; he began the Barbados Labour Party in 1938 and by 1961 Barbados achieved the status of self-governing autonomy. The Barbados airport is named after this early and influential politician.
– After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados became an independent state within the British Commonwealth on November 30, 1966. Under its constitution, Barbados is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the British system.
Barbados’ Independence Celebration
Each year on November 30 Barbados’ independence is celebrated not unlike America’s on July 4th. Barbados’ birthday begins with a parade in the Garrison Savannah, the former British military installation (and now a leading Caribbean race track and a very pretty grassy area steeped in history). (Actually, the British ran its military operation for all of the Eastern Caribbean from Barbados.)
Having traveled a great deal through the Caribbean, I notice that other countries look at Barbados as the “boring” island. It’s true: both Jamaica and Trinidad, for example, are bigger, bolder, more colorful, and brassier former children of the Crown. No matter; its low crime rate, peaceful politics, and high standard of living, Barbados quite happily accepts its role as the boring one of the lot.
This year, 2009, we celebrated Barbados’ 43rd birthday. Many happy returns!