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Barbados has been referred to as, in the 19th century, "the sanitorium of the West Indies, where scores of British elite flocked for the climate. More recently, and more cynically, Barbados has been called "the Florida of the West Indies, albeit with a distinctly Caribbean and British accent."

Settled by the British in 1627, Barbados avoided much of the strife and conflicts of the region chiefly because of its location, 90 miles east of the West Indies 'chain'. Barbados is home to the oldest Parliament in the western hemisphere, established over 350 years ago. Because it was never invaded and enjoyed continuous British influence since its colonization, Barbados remains a bastion of old-world charm and historical significance.

Over 400,000 visitors each year find miles of pink and white sand beaches; a highly developed tourism industry offering some of the finest hotels in the Caribbean; fine restaurants; and swimming, sunning and a plethora of water sports, both above and below the surface

 

History and Culture

Barbados has a rich history of great houses, plantations, pirate dens and the attractive chattel house of board and shingle, sometimes with ornate trim, which were the homes to the poor. Attactive Barbadian architecture The homes of the island are some of the world's best examples of a period of architecture, dating back to the sixteen century. Rare possessions, mahogany furniture, ornaments, household artifacts, big wheeled buggies, art and sculpture decorate these homes in a unique setting of tropical color and building style. There are many heritage tours and a special heritage passport, which provides a roster of daily visit tours of these unique settings.

The Open House Program is presented each year by the Barbados National Trust and features some of the island's most historic and beautiful private homes. These lovely homes are opened one day a year with the kind permission of the owners.

Your BDS $15.00 entrance fee gives you access to the house and gardens. Children under 5 are admitted free of charge and children 5-12 years, at half price. Members of the Trust pay only BDS$ 6.00. This also applies to members of any of the reciprocating Trusts and Societies including the National Trusts for Scotland, England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, as well as heritage societies of the United States and Canada. Be sure to bring along your membership card!

There is so much to see at an Open House, whether its an old plantation house with centuries of history or an opulent modern villa with every conceivable luxury. The grounds and gardens are part of the attraction - somewhere to linger in the sunshine as you enjoy a refreshing tropical drink or rum punch!

The Shop and Bookstall are the perfect places for souvenirs and gifts with the latest publications, the best local pottery, the prettiest local jewellery and tastiest delicacies.

Heritage Passport

Sponsored by the Barbados National Trust, the Heritage Passport provides visitors with an introduction and privileged entrance to Historic Homes and Places of Barbados.

THE FULL PASSPORT

Full Passports, available for $35.00US provide 50% discounts to 15 sites.
The Full passport also includes invitations to the open house program in the winter months

THE MINI PASSPORT

Providing 50% discounts to 5 historic sites. The Mini Passport cost is $18.00US

HISTORY OF BARBADOS

Very Early.

The history of the early settlement of Barbados is being rewritten as a result of recent archaeological discoveries unearthed at the site of Port St. Charles. Artifacts and evidence point to settlement some time around 1623 B.C.

The first indigenous people were Amerindians who arrived here from Venezuela. Paddling long dugout canoes they crossed oceans and currents that challenge modern sailing vessels. On the north end of Venezuela a narrow sea channel called the Dragon's mouth acts as a funnel to the Caribbean sea and the nearest Island of Trinidad.  It is a formidable passage of swift flowing water and cross currents. It is dangerous water for an open dugout canoe. But they came, families and villages, adventurers, descendants of the first people who traveled across the Alaska land bridge, down through Canada and the Americas to the South.

They made their new home in Barbados along the coast, leaving behind hardly a trace, only a hint of evidence for the archeologist to date and dream about.  Fragments of tools made of shell, utensils, refuse and burial places convey but a mystery of their time.

Amerindian Civilization.

The Arawaks were short, olive-skinned people who bound their foreheads during infancy to slope it into a point. They considered this along with black and white body painting to be attractive. The Ca¤ques (chiefs) and influential members of the tribe wore nose plugs and/or rings made of copper and gold alloys (History of Barbados). They were an agricultural people and grew cotton, cassava, corn, peanuts, guavas, and papaws (papaya). The cotton was woven and used for armbands and hammocks. Cassava was ground and grated to be made into casareep, a seasoning used in cooking. The Arawaks also used harpoons, nets, and hooks, to fish for food (History of Barbados).

1200 Carib Indians

In 1200, the Arawaks were conquered by the Caribs. The Caribs were a taller and stronger Amerindian tribe than the Arawaks. They were also cannibals. They were a warlike and savage people who are reported to have barbecued their captives and washed them down with cassava beer. In the History of Barbados, for example, it is reported that Caribs ate an entire French crew in 1596. They were incredibly accurate bowmen and used a powerful poison to paralyze their prey. (History of Barbados).

Portuguese

The Portuguese came to Barbados en route to Brazil. It was at this time that the island was named Los Barbados (bearded-ones) by the Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos. It was so named, presumably, after the island's fig trees, which have a beard-like appearance. 

1492 Spanish

Despite the Caribs' ruthless warlike abilities, the island was taken over by the Spanish in 1492. The Spanish brutally imposed slavery on the Caribs. Slavery and the contagious European small pox and tuberculosis ended the Caribs' existence (History of Barbados). Spain, however, passed Barbados over in favor of the larger Caribbean islands (History of European Overseas Exploration and Empires). This left the island open for anyone who wanted to colonize it.  

1625 - 1644 .  English Colonization

The first English ship touched the island on May 14th 1625 under the command of Captain John Powell. The island was therefore claimed on behalf of King James I.

HoletownOn February 17th 1627, Captain Henry Powell landed with a party of 80 settlers and 10 slaves to occupy and settle the island. This expedition landed in Holetown formerly known as Jamestown. The colonists established a House of Assembly in 1639. It was the 3rd ever Parliamentary Democracy in the world (Barbados History).

People with good financial backgrounds and social connections with England were allocated land. Within a few years much of the land had been deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations.

During the 1630s, sugar cane was introduced to the agriculture. The production of sugar, tobacco and cotton was heavily reliant on the indenture of servants. White civilians who wanted to emigrate overseas could do so by signing an agreement to serve a planter in Barbados for a period of 5 or 7 years. To meet the labor demands, servants were also derived from kidnapping, and convicted criminals were shipped to Barbados. Descendants of the white slaves and indentured labor (referred to as Red Legs) still live in Barbados, they live amongst the black population in St. Martin's River and other east coast regions. At one time they lived in caves in this region.

1644 . 1700 .  Sugar and Slavery

A potential market formed for slaves and sugar-making machinery by the Dutch Merchants who were to supply Barbados with their requirements of forced labor from West Africa. The slaves came from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon. Many slaves did not survive the journey from Africa, but many thousands still reached their destination.

The Barbadians dominated the Caribbean Sugar Industry in these early years. The sugar plantation owners were powerful and successful businessmen who had arrived in Barbados in the early years.

Many natural disasters occurred in the late 1600s, such as the locust plague of 1663, the Bridgetown fire and a major hurricane in 1667. Drought in 1668 ruined some planters and excessive rain in 1669 added to their financial problems. However, investment continued in sugar and slaves and was perceived to have good prospects.

By 1720 Barbadians were no longer a dominant force within the sugar industry. They had been surpassed by the Leeward Islands and the Jamaica.

1807 - 1838 . Abolition, rebellion and emancipation

After slavery was abolished in 1834, many of the new citizens of Barbados took advantage of the superb education available on the island. After these citizens had been educated, they wanted something more than working in the cane fields. Some of them gained prominent offices in Barbados. Others worked in common jobs, and still others stayed in the cane fields (Barbados History).

Bussa StatueMany people were drawn to Barbados because of the climate and slow pace of life. The island was thought of as a cure for "the vapors" (Barbados History). Even Major George Washington visited the island with his tuberculosis-stricken half brother in hope of ameliorating his illness (Barbados History)

Slavery, abolished in 1834, was followed by a 4-year apprenticeship period during which free men continued to work a 45-hour week without pay in exchange for living in the tiny huts provided by the plantation owners.  Freedom from slavery was celebrated in 1838 at the end of the apprenticeship period with over 70,000 Barbadians of African descent taking to the streets with the Barbados folk song:

"Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin (Queen Victoria).
De Queen come from England to set we free
Now Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin "

1961-1966 Independence

Barbados was first occupied by the British in 1627 and remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted  in 1961. The Island gained full independence in 1966, and maintains ties to the Britain monarch represented in Barbados by the Governor General. It is a member of the Commonwealth.  The first leader of Barbados as a free nation was the Right Honorable Errol Walton Barrow, of the Democratic Labor Party. The other major political party is the Barbados Labor Party, led by the current Prime Minister - The Right Honorable Owen Arthur. In 1989, the National Democratic Party was formed. Its leader was Dr.Richie Haynes.


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