A Brief History of Barbados
The first known inhabitants of Barbados were the Amerindians. They made their homes primarily on the coast of the island where they had access to the sea as a food source. Early 16th century records indicate that the Spanish raided Barbados for slaves to work in the mines of Hispaniola. The Spanish influence continued where Dutch vessels licensed by the court of Spain would land in Barbados to procure goods before they returned to Europe. In 1536, the Portuguese arrived and named the island ‘Los Barbados’ in honour its unique flora: the hanging roots of the Bearded fig Tree.
In 1625, the British claimed Barbados and in 1627, a second party arrived to settle at Jamestown, now known as Holetown. Three years later a third party of settlers arrived at the Carlisle Bay, to take advantage of the creek, the nearest source of fresh water.
Rich soil properties and moderate rainfall facilitated the cultivation of tobacco, cotton and later sugarcane and its by-products rum and molasses. This led to the arrival of African slaves as labour to cultivate sugarcane on the plantations.
Rich golden brown in colour, Barbados’ sugar has a nutty caramel flavour with the subtle aroma of molasses. Sugar is one of the main ingredients in the distillation of rum. According to tradition, it is suggested that rum originated in Barbados. The first documented appearance of rum, then called kill-devil, shows it being exported from Barbados in 1638.
Barbados remained a self-funding colony through uninterrupted British rule from 1627, the abolition of slavery in 1834 and beyond independence from Britain in 1966. The House of Assembly, modelled on the British system, is the third-oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.
On June 25, 2011 Barbados joined an elite group of nations with world heritage properties when Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. World Heritage sites are places on Earth that are of Outstanding Universal Value to humanity This inscription is a tremendous feat for a small Caribbean island state. UNESCO’s commitment to the identification, protection and preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage is enshrined in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972).
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