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The History of Barbados
"A Timeline of This Caribbean Island's Past"


A Complete Timeline of The History of Barbados

Below is a timeline of the history of Barbados from as early as 1620 B.C to 2008.

If you would like to learn more about the island's history while on vacation here you can pay a visit to The Barbados Museum and Historical Society.


The Early History of Barbados From 1620 B.C. To 1800

• The Arawaks were the first inhabitants of the island in 1620 B.C.

You may or may not know but orginally this island was inhabited by Arawak Indians, a tribe of Amerindians.  This aborignal tribe came over to the Caribbean island from neighbouring South America, just south west of the island.  It is believed that the majority were from Venezuela.  

The Arawak Indians thrived on growing their own crops including cassava and cotton.  The Arawaks also hunted for their food using man made harpoons and nets to catch fish.

• The Caribs Take Over The Island in 1200

The Caribs, another tribe of Amerindians, also came from the north coast of South America, living in the rainforests of Venezuela.

The Caribs however were a larger and more powerful tribe than the Arawaks.  They were known to be a war oriented group who practiced cannibalism as a war ritual.  It is believed that in 1200 The Caribs killed the Arawaks and over took the island.

The Spanish Take Over The Island in 1492

In 1492 The Spanish discovered Barbados, enslaving The Caribs while introducing diseases such as Small Pox and Tuberculosis to the island.  It is believed that these diseases killed off The Carib tribes.  The Spanish however left Barbados and continued on to explore the larger Caribbean islands to the north.

The Explorer Pedro a Campos names the island, Los Barbados in 1536

About 4 decades later, a Portuguess explorer named Pedro a Campos was on his way to Brazil when he landed on Barbados.  He didn't settle on the island but did name it Los Barbados or The Beareded Ones.  

This is believed to be named after the Bearded Fig Trees found throughout the island.  These trees have long roots making them look like they have beards.

The English Arrive in Barbados in 1625

Captain John Powell, an English Explorer, claimed the island for King James The 1st, in 1625.

2 years later another English Explorer named Captain Henry Powell brought settlers to the island, landing in what is now known as Holetown on the west coast of the island.

Barbados is divided into six parishes in 1629

In 1629, the island was subdivided in to 6 different regions called parishes.  These parishes were called St. Lucy, St. Peter, St. James, St.Michael, St. Thomas and Christ Church.

Pieter Blower introduces Sugar Cane to the island in 1637

Pieter Blower was a Dutchman who had learned to grow sugar cane in Brazil.  He was the reason for a great boom in the economy of Barbados in the mid 1600s propelling Barbados to the wealthiest British colony of the time.

The House Of Assembly is formed in 1639

The English settlers formed a House of Assembly in 1639 and Barbados becomes a British Colony.

Deforestation and Sugar Plantions of 1640

Barbados experienced a period of mass deforestation in 1640.  This was done in order to build sugar cane plantations and clear fields for mass production of the sugar crop.  This is when sugar cane cultivation in Barbados truely began thanks to Pieter Blower.  

As the need for labour became more and more prominent in the eyes of sugar plantation owners, thousands of African slaves were imported from the west coast of Africa on overcrowded ships.

The Island is divided in to 11 parishes in 1645

In 1645, 5 more parishes were formed dividing the island into a total of 11 parishes.  These parishes were St. Lucy, St. Peter, St. John, St. Andrew, St. James, St. George, St. Thomas, St. Joseph, St.Michael, St. Philip and Christ Church, and exist to this date.

Oliver Cromwell seizes control of the island in 1649

In 1649, King Charles was executed and Oliver Cromwell, an English military and political leader, attempted to take control of Barbados.  

However The House of Assemby that was currently ruling the country rejected him.  This lead to Cromwell sending a fleet of British military over to the island to seize it.  Cromwell was successful.

The Charter of Barbados in 1652

In early 1652, with Cromwell now in power, The Articles of Capitulation were signed.  These articles were signed in a small fishing village on the south coast of the island, now known as Oistins.  This is where the Oistins Fish Fry is held every week.  

The Artilces of Capitulation became The Charter of Barbados.

The Emigration of over 22,000 Barbadians in 1670

As the sugar cane industry continued to boom throughout the mid to late 1600s less and less land was owned by non-white locals.  This resulted in thousands of poor black Barbadians leaving the island, many seeking new lives in nearby islands.

Importation of African slaves in the 1700s & 1800s skyrockets the island's population

By the early 1800s the importation of slaves from the African coast reached a total of almost 400,000!  Barbados had now become the most densely populated island in the Caribbean with white Europeans continuing to own the majority of land.

Hurricane San Calixto II of 1780

On October 9th of 1780 a disastrous hurricane strike the island killing over 4,000 locals.  This was the deadliest hurricane to hit Barbados in ancient history.


The History of Barbados From 1800 To 1900

The Barbados Slave Trade is Abolished in 1807

Finally in 1807 the use of African slaves was abolished, the beginning of an important change in Barbados slave history.

The Slaves Rebel in 1816

Even though the slave trade had been abolished people were still allowed to keep african slaves they had previously owned.  This lead to the slaves rebelling on Easter Sunday of 1816 (April 14th), being lead by an african slave called Bussa.  The rebellion was therefore labelled Bussa's Rebellion.

The rebellion started in the southern regions of the island and was eventually brought to an end by the military.  Bussa died during the rebellion and you can see a statue of him while driving along the highway of the island, a tribute to his impact on Barbados slave history.

The Great Barbados Hurricane of 1831

Barbados was struck by another devastating hurricane on August 10th of 1831 resulting in the deaths of 1500 people.

Slavery Becomes An Apprentice System in 1834

In 1834, a 4 year apprenticeship system was developed that allowed those who were slaves better living conditions. During this time slaves worked for their owners with out pay and lived in small huts on plantation properties. This marked a major change for the good in the lives of the black Barbadian population.

Emancipation And The Right To Vote in 1838

Once the 4 year apprenticeship had ended in 1838 slavery was finally abolished and the right to vote was given to only 6000 men under strict property qualifications. Therefore 6000 males who either owned property or earned a certain amount of money were granted the right to vote. This meant that even some whilte male locals also could not vote until universal sufferage was granted in 1950. All women were forbidden to vote until 1944.

Cholera Epidemic in 1854

In 1854 Barbados experienced an outbreak of Cholera, an infestious disease that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.  Cholera was spread throughout the island by unsanitary water.  

John Castello Montefiore, a plantation owner and merchant, was one of the first persons to die from the disease during this outbreak.  As a result his son erected a drinking fountain called The Montefiore Fountain at The Montefiore Gardens.

The Income Qualification For Voters is decreased in 1884

In 1884 persons with an income of £50 sterling were given the right to vote.

The Windwards Islands Hurricane of 1898

On September 10th, 1898 another hurricane struck Barbados killing more than 80 people.


The History Of Barbados From 1900 To 2000

The Democratic League Of Barbados is formed in 1924

The first all black political group is created by Charles Duncan O'Neal, and is called the Democratic League of Barbados.

Economic Depression in 1931

In the early 1930s Barbados felt the effects of the worldwide economic depression.  The Sugar Industry began to crash and many Black workers became unemployed.  Times had become tough and reform was soon to come.

Protests & Riots During The Depression in 1937

Even though slavery had been abolished almost a century ago there was still great tension between the white plantation owners and the oppressed black plantation workers.  

Clement Payne, a popular advocate for the formation of Barbados Trade Unions, brought together the black poor working class of Barbados and preached of standing up to the white plantation owners.  

On July 26th of 1937 Clement Payne was deported from the island as the country's rulers viewed him as a threat.  This lead to an uproar amongst his followers who gathered in the capital of the island, Bridgetown.  

Protests escalated into a violent 4 day riot with many downtown businesses being damaged.  Luckily the death count was only 14.  These riots resulted in probing and intervention by Britain's Government and signified the begin of social reform in Barbados.  

Clement Payne is now known as one of Barbados' National Heroes.

The Barbados Labour Party Founded in 1938

An organization known as the Barbados Progressive League was then formed in October of 1983 and was lead by Sir Grantley Herbert Adams.  

This institution's main goal was to protect the rights of the less fortunate Barbadian workers, developing trade unions in an attempt to increase wages for the poor.  The league was later renamed to The Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

Grantley Adams elected to The House Of Assembly in 1940

Under the leadership of Grantley Adams the Barbados Labour Party won five seats in The House Of Assembly in 1940.

The Barbados Workers Union formed in 1941

On 4th October, 1941 the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) was formed with a goal to be a trade union that helps improve the quality of the lives of Barbadian workers. Grantley Adams took up position as The President of The BWU.

Women are given the right to vote in 1944

Women were then given the right to vote as well as be members of the Barbados House of Parliament in 1944.

Income Qualification for voters is decreased in 1944

Persons with an income of £20 sterling were given the right to vote in 1944.

The BLP wins office in 1946

In November of 1946 The Barbados Labour Party won the election and The Bushe Experiment allowed members quasi-ministerial portfolios.  This was all accomplished under the lead of Grantley Adams.

World War II comes to an end and the Sugar Industry begins its decline in 1950

After the end of World War II the sugar industry in Barbados began to decline due to an increase in competition from the international market.  This caused a decrease in the selling price of sugar.  Many sugar factories would shutdown over the next 5 decades and the Barbados government began to develop its tourism industry to supplement the economy.

Adult Suffrage is implemented in 1950

Universal adult suffrage was introduced to the island in 1950 thanks to Grantley Adams' push for Democracy throughout the island.  Persons 21 years or older were now given the right to vote.

Errol Barrow Becomes A Member Of The BLP in 1951

In 1951, a Barbados Statesman from the parish of St.Lucy by the name of Errol Walton Barrow becames a member of the Barbados Labour Party.  He would soon leave this party and form his own political party in 1955.

Sir Grantley Adams Becomes The First Premier of Barbados in 1954

Sir Grantley Adams, leader of the BLP, took up position as The First Premier of Barbados in 1954 under a Ministerial Government.

Sir Grantley Adams Resigns As Preseident of the BWU in 1954

Sir Grantley Adams stepped down from his position as president of the Barbados Workers Union in 1954.

Errol Barrow Forms The DLP in 1955

A new political party called the Democratic Labour Party, led by Errol Walton Barrow, was formed in 1955.  Errol Barrow was previously a member and leader of the Barbados Labour Party in 1951 but soon became dissatified forming this more liberal party.  

The BLP and DLP have been the top two opposing Barbados political parties to this date.

Hurricane Janet of 1955

A Category 3 Hurricane called Janet struck Barbados on September 22nd of 1955.  This hurricane killed 38 people.

BLP wins the election in 1956

A general election takes places and The Barbados Labour Party wins the majority of seats keeping this party in office.

Sir Grantley Adams is knighted in 1957

In 1957, Sir Grantley Adams was knighted by The Queen of England for his tremendous impact on the socioeconomic lives of people in the Caribbean.

Grantley Adams becomes Prime Minister of The West Indies Federation in 1958

At the beginning of 1958, 24 Caribbean British colonies joined together to form The West Indies Federation.  This Federation was created in an attempt to form one political Caribbean body that would break away from Britian and become an independent Caribbean unit.  

The first elections for The West Indies Federation took place on March 25th of 1958 with the West Indies Federal Labour Party winning.  This party was led by a Barbadian politician by the name of Grantley Herbert Adams, who then became the first Prime Minister of the Federation.

Cummins becomes The Premier of Barbados  in 1958

As Sir Grantley Adams took up the position of Prime Minister of The West Indies Federation another member of the BLP, Hugh Gordon Cummins, was chosen by Adams to become Barbados' second Premier.

DLP wins the elections and Errol Barrow becomes The Premier of Barbados in 1961

An election was held in 1961 and the Democratic Labour Party, lead by Errol Walton Barrow, won causing a shift in political office.  Errol Barrow's face can be seen depicted on the $50 dollar Barbados bill.

The Voting Age is reduced in 1964

In 1964, the elegability to vote was reduced to 18 years of age.

The Barbados Constitution of 1966

On 22nd of November in 1966 The Barbados Independence Order was brought before the Barbados Parliament.  8 days later, on the 30th of November in 1966, the order was accepted and put into operation.  The order is now commonly referred to as The Barbados Constitution.

Barbados becomes independent and has its first  Prime Minister in 1966

On November 30, 1966 Barbados finally became independent from Britain and the designation of Premier of Barbados was changed to Prime Minister of Barbados.  This made Errol Barrow Barbados' first ever Prime Minister under a self government.  November 30 of 1966 has gone down as a major milestone in Barbados political history.

Barbados becomes a member of The United Nations in 1967

In 1967, Barbados then joined The United Nations.

Barbados has its First Native Governor General in 1967

Sir Arleigh Winston Scott, a medical practitioner, was appointed the position of the first Governor General of Barbados by The Queen of England in 1967.

Sir Grantley Adams passes away in 1971

On November 28th of 1971 Sir Grantley Adams passed away at the age of 73.  His son, Tom Adams, then took over his position.

The Barbados Labour Party wins the election in 1976

The BLP now lead by the son of Grantley Adams, Tom Adams, won the general elections in 1976.  At this time Tom Adams became The 2nd Prime Minister of Barbados.

Sir Winston Scott Passes Away in 1976

In 1967 Sir Winston Scott passed away and was replaced by Sir Deighton Ward as Governor General of Barbados.

The Number Of Seats is increased in 1980

The number of seats in The House Of Assembly was increased to 27 from 24 in 1980.

The Barbados Labour Party wins the election in 1981

In 1981 the BLP, lead by Tom Adams son of Grantly Adams, won the general election over the DLP. 

Tom Adams Dies and Brenard St. John succeeds in 1985

In March of 1985, Prime Minister Tom Adams passed away in his home of a heart attack.  He was further succeeded by Bernard St.John the new leader of the Barbados Labour Party.

The Democratic Labour Party wins the election in 1986

There was a change of governement in 1986 after the May 28th election when the DLP won 24 of the 27 seats in the House Of Assembly.  This was due to the public great dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Bernard St.John, the succeedor to John Adams.  

The leader of the DLP at that time, Errol Barrow, then became the 4th Prime Minister of Barbados.  This was his second time as Prime Minister.

Errol Barrow dies in 1987

Only a year after Errol Barrow regained his position as Prime Minister of Barbados in May of 1986 he passed away at the age of 67.  He was then succeeded by Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, Deputy Prime Minister at the time from the Democratic Labour Party and former Minister of Education.

Barbados Tourism Industry continues to grow rapidly into 1990

In 1956 the total number of visitors to the island was approximately 30,000.  By the early 1900s this number had increased to almost 800,000!
The island's main economic focus had shifted from the production of sugar to tourism.

BLP wins the general elections in 1994

The Barbados Labour Party won the general elections in 1994 regaining office.  The party was now led by Owen Arthur who became the island's 6th Prime Minister.  

U.S President Bill Clinton visits the island in 1997

On May 11th of 1997 the U.S President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary Clinton visited the island to attend a Caribbean Summit.  This summit included leaders from 14 other Caribbean countries.

BLP wins the general elections in 1999

The Barbados Labour Party won the general elections in 1999 and remained in office with Owen Arthur serving a second term as Prime Minister of Barbados.


The History Of Barbados From 200 To 2008

BLP wins the general elections in 2003

The Barbados Labour Party won the general elections for a third time in 2003 with Owen Arthur serving a third consecutive term as Prime Minister of Barbados

DLP wins the general elections in 2008

On the 15th of January of 2008 The Decomcratic Labour Party, after 9 years, defeated the Barbados Labour Party.  David Thompson became the island's 7th Prime Minister.

Vacation in Barbados


Barbados Weather History

Barbados has a great weather history of year round sunny and warm weather with temperatures averaging 26 degrees celsius or 81 degrees fahrenheit.
However the position of Barbados does place it just south of the path of tropical Atlantic storms travelling west off the African coast.  This creates a wet season from June to October during which the island experience's an increase in rainfall and a small chance of storm and hurricane activity.

Regardless, the Barbados weather history has shown that the chance of Barbados experiencing a direct hurricane hit to be slim to none.  The last time we were hit by a hurricane was in 1955!  Thats over 52 years ago!

It is more common during the wet season for the island to experince tropical storms and depressions.  These cause short periods of heavy rain and overcast skies in the Barbados weather.

Vacation in Barbados


A Timeline of The Barbados Hurricane History

Here is a list of the hurricanes that have come near to or hit Barbados in the past:

• Hurricane San Calixto II of 1780

Hurricane San Calixto still to this date the deadliest hurricane Barbados has ever experienced killing 4500 people.  This hurricane formed in early October of 1780 reaching Barbados on October 9th.

51 years later....

The Great Barbados Hurricane of 1831

Reaching a Category 4, this hurricane was the second most deadly hurricane in Barbados weather history and is remembered by the devastation caused by its 17 foot storm surge.  This hurricane struck the island on August 10th of 1831 killing 1500 people.

67 years later....

The Windwards Islands Hurricane of 1898

Windward Islands Barbados HurricaneThis was one of the most destructive hurricanes in the history of Caribbean weather causing the most damage to the islands of Barbados and St.Vincent.  

This hurricane developed in early August of 1898 reaching a Category 2  hurricane and hitting Barbados the night of Saturday, September 10th 1898.  

The hurricane killed more than 80 people and left thousands homeless.

Photo: The Hurricane Track of The Windwards Islands Hurricane

57 years later....

• Hurricane Janet of 1955

Barbados Hurricane JanetWhen Hurricane Janet hit Barbados on September 22nd of 1955 it was a Category 3 hurricane. 

This hurricane had wind speeds up to 120 mph killing 38 people.

Photo: The Hurricane Track of Hurricane Janet

??? years later....

It has now been 52 years since Barbados has been directly struck by a Hurricane.

But if you are still worried about it raining during your vacation in Barbados, then just travel here during the months of January to April when the island receives under 2 inches of rain!

Vacation in Barbados

Barbados Flag History

After the independence of Barbados in November of 1966, the Government of Barbados held a nation wide competition allowing people to submit designs for the Barbados flag.  This competition attracted 1,029 entries.

The winning entry was submitted by an art teacher known as Grantley Prescod.

Prescod's design used the colour blue to represent the Barbados sky and sea and the colour gold to represent our sand.  

He also included a broken trident in the centre of the flag to represent Barbados' independence and separation from England.  This design has since then been used as the current Barbados flag.

For his design Grantley Prescod received a gold medal, an inscribed scroll and 500 dollars.

Prescod lived to 77 when he passed away on November 12th of 2003.

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