Barbados , situated just east of the Caribbean Sea, is an independent West Indian Continental Island-nation in the western Atlantic Ocean. For over three centuries Barbados was under British rule and maintains Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Located at roughly 13° North of the equator and 59° West of the prime meridian, it is considered a part of the Lesser Antilles. Its closest island neighbours are Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Saint Lucia to the west. To the south lies Trinidad and Tobago—with which Barbados now shares a fixed official maritime boundary—and also the South American mainland. Barbados's total land area is about 430 square kilometres (166 square miles), and is primarily low-lying, with some higher in the country's interior. The highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby in the parish of Saint Andrew.
The geological composition of Barbados is of non-volcanic origin, predominantly limestone-coral. After the break of South America from Africa in the Mesozoic, a reef formed; and during the Cenozoic, as both the Caribbean and South American plates moved westward, the two plates impacted and pressed this reef upward. Barbados is part of a North Atlantic Ocean submarine mountain range located to the east of the Windward Islands, this range stretches from its close proximity of Puerto Rico in the north, to a south-easterly direction toward Venezuela. The island of Barbados, forms the only part of this mountain range that actually rises above sea level.
The island's climate is tropical, with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean serving to keep temperatures mild. Some less developed areas of the country contain tropical woodland and mangroves. Other parts of the interior which contribute to the agriculture industry are dotted with large sugarcane estates and wide, gently sloping pastures, with panoramic views down to the coast also.
Barbados's Human Development Index ranking is consistently among the top 75 countries in the world. For example, in 2006, it was ranked 31st in the world, and third in the Americas, behind Canada and the United States.
Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island. It is considered relatively flat in comparison to its island neighbours to the west in the Windward Islands, the island rises gently to the central highland region, with the highpoint of the country being Mount Hillaby, in the Scotland District. . The island is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the other West Indies isles.
Geologically composed of coral . The land falls in a series of "terraces" in the west and goes into an incline in the east. Much of the country is circled by coral reefs.
In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados' capital and main city, Bridgetown. Other major towns scattered across the island include Holetown, in the parish of Saint James; Oistins, in the parish of Christ Church; and Speightstown, in the parish of Saint Peter.
The climate is moderate tropical, with a wet season and a more dry season . The annual precipitation ranges between 40 inches (1,000 mm) and 90 inches (2,300 mm).
Barbados is often spared the worst effects of the region's tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season as its far eastern location in the Atlantic Ocean puts it just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. On average a hurricane may strike about once about every 26 years. The last significant hit from a hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955.
British sailors who landed on Barbados in 1625 arrived at the site of present-day Holetown. From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627–1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British control. Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639. Among the initial important British figures was Sir William Courten.
With the increased implementation of slave codes, which created differential treatment between Africans and the white workers and planters, the island became increasingly unattractive to poor whites. Black or slave codes were implemented in 1661, 1676, 1682, and 1688. In response to these codes, several slave rebellions were attempted or planned during this time, but none succeeded. However, an increasingly repressive legal system caused the gap between the treatment of typically white indentured servants and black slaves to widen. Imported slaves became much more attractive for the rich planters who would increasingly dominate the island not only economically but also politically. Some have speculated that, because the Africans could withstand tropical diseases and the climate much better than the white slave population, the white population decreased. This is inconsistent with the fact that many poor whites simply migrated to neighbouring islands and remained in tropical climates. Nevertheless, poor whites who had or acquired the means to emigrate often did so. Planters expanded their importation of African slaves to cultivate sugar cane. The inhabitants of Barbados turned from mainly English and Scots-Irish in the seventeenth century to overwhelmingly black by the end of the 18th century.
Barbados eventually had one of the world's biggest sugar industries after Jews from Brazil introduced the sugarcane to the island in the mid 1600s. This quickly replaced tobacco plantations on the islands which were previously the main export. As the sugar industry developed into its main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates that replaced the smallholdings of the early British settlers. Some of the displaced farmers moved to other British colonies in the Americas, most notably North and South Carolina, and British Guiana, as well as Panama. To work the plantations, planters imported enslaved West Africans to Barbados and other Caribbean islands.
The British abolished the slave trade in 1807 but not the institution itself. In 1816, slaves arose in the largest major slave rebellion in the island's history. Twenty thousand slaves from over seventy plantations rebelled. They drove whites off the plantations, but widespread killings did not take place. This was later termed “Bussa's Rebellion” after the slave ranger Bussa, who with his assistants hated slavery, found the treatment of slaves on Barbados to be “intolerable,” and believed the political climate in the UK made the time ripe to peacefully negotiate with planters for freedom . Bussa's Rebellion failed. One hundred and twenty slaves died in combat or were immediately executed; another 144 were brought to trial and executed; remaining rebels were shipped off the island .
Slavery was finally abolished in the British Empire eighteen years later in 1834. In Barbados and the rest of the British West Indian colonies, full emancipation from slavery was preceded by an apprenticeship period that lasted four years.
In 1884, the Barbados Agricultural Society sent a letter to Sir Francis Hincks requesting his private and public views on whether the Dominion of Canada would favourably entertain having the then colony of Barbados admitted as a member of the Canadian Confederation. Asked of Canada were the terms of the Canadian side to initiate discussions, and whether or not the island of Barbados could depend on the full influence of Canada in getting the change agreed to by the United Kingdom. Then in 1952 the Barbados Advocate newspaper polled several prominent Barbadian politicians, lawyers, businessmen, the Speaker of the Barbados House of Assembly and later as first President of the Senate, Sir Theodore Branker, Q.C. and found them to be in favour of immediate federation of Barbados along with the rest of the British Caribbean with complete Dominion Status within five years from the date of inauguration of the West Indies Federation with Canada.
However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, owing to the high income qualification required for voting. More than 70% of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process. It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this movement, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Labour Party in 1938, then known as the Barbados Progressive League. While being a staunch supporter of the monarchy, Adams and his party also demanded more rights for the poor and for the people. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949 governmental control was wrested from the planters and, in 1958, Adams became Premier of Barbados.
From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, an organisation doomed by nationalistic attitudes and by the fact that its members, as British colonies, held limited legislative power. Adams served as its first and only "Premier", but his leadership failed in attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defence of the monarchy was used by his opponents as evidence that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country. Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, became the new people's advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams' conservative government. Barrow instituted many progressive social programmes, such as free education for all Barbadians, and the School Meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.
With the Federation dissolved, Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state on 30 November 1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister. Upon independence Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by establishing membership to the Commonwealth of Nations grouping, a year later Barbados' International linkages were expanded by obtaining membership to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.