Culture and history infoHistory
Amerindian settlement of Barbados dates to about the 4th to 7th centuries AD, by a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid. In the 13th century, the Kalinago arrived from South America.
The Spanish and Portuguese briefly claimed Barbados from the late 16th to the 17th centuries. The Arawaks are believed to have fled to neighbouring islands. Apart from possibly displacing the Caribs, the Spanish and Portuguese made little impact and left the island uninhabited. Some Arawaks migrated from British Guiana (modern-day Guyana) in the 1800s and continue to live in Barbados.
From the arrival of the first English settlers in 1627-1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted English and later British governance and was the only Caribbean island that did not change hands during the colonial period. In the very early years, the majority of the population was white and male, with African slaves providing little of the workforce. Cultivation of tobacco, cotton, ginger and indigo was handled primarily by European indentured labour until the start of the sugar cane industry in the 1640s. As Barbados' economy grew, Barbados developed a large measure of local autonomy through its founding as a proprietary colony. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639. Among the island's earliest leading figures was the Anglo-Dutch Sir William Courten.
The 1780 hurricane killed over 4,000 people on Barbados. In 1854 a cholera epidemic killed over 20,000 inhabitants. At emancipation in 1833, the size of the slave population was approximately 83,000. Between 1946 and 1980, Barbados' rate of population growth was diminished by one-third because of emigration to Britain.
The influence of the English on Barbados is more noticeable than on other islands in the West Indies. A good example of this is the island's national sport: cricket. Barbados has brought forth several great cricketers, including Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Frank Worrell.
Citizens are officially called Barbadians. The term "Bajan" (pronounced BAY-jun) may have come from a localised pronunciation of the word Barbadian, which at times can sound more like "Bar-bajan".
The largest carnival-like cultural event that takes place on the island is the Crop Over festival. As in many other Caribbean and Latin American countries, Crop Over is an important event for many people on the island, as well as the thousands of tourists that flock to there to participate in the annual events. The festival includes musical competitions and other traditional activities, and features the majority of the island's homegrown calypso and soca music for the year. The male and female Barbadians who harvested the most sugarcane are crowned as the King and Queen of the crop. Crop Over gets under way at the beginning of July and ends with the costumed parade on Kadooment Day, held on the first Monday of August.
In music, eight-time Grammy Award winner Rihanna (born in Saint Michael) is one of Barbados' best-known artists. In 2009 she was appointed as an Honorary Ambassador of youth and culture for Barbados by the late Prime Minister, David Thompson.
Singer-songwriter Shontelle, the band Cover Drive, and musician Rupee also originate from Barbados. Grandmaster Flash (born Joseph Saddler in Bridgetown in 1958) is a hugely influential musician of Barbadian origin, pioneering hip-hop DJing, cutting, and mixing in 1970s New York. The Merrymen are a well known Calypso band based in Barbados, performing from the 1960s into the 2010s.