The Island Nation of Barbados - Part 2
Barbados’ period of slavery was a time of absolute oppression.
A Short History of Barbados
The first inhabitants of the Island of Barbados were the peaceful Arawaks and the more ferocious Caribs. But when John Powell, the English Captain, arrived on the island in 1625, the island appeared to be uninhabited. As a result, Powell claimed the island for King James I of England. Powell then returned to England to put the necessary plans in place, then returned to Barbados to the site now known as Holetown in February 1627. The island was then named Los Barbados, named due to the islands similarities to the Ficus tree, whose aerial roots look like beards.
The Slave Period
Barbados’ period of slavery was a time of absolute oppression: African slaves were imported due to an insufficient white British workforce, and these unfortunate slaves were subjected to a treacherous journey across the Atlantic’s feared Middle Passage. Between the years 1640 and 1807, thousands of African slaves were forced to endure this journey, with never a guarantee of arriving safely. These slaves were forced to learn English, so together with their own African languages they developed the Bajan language as a way of communicating with each other so their slave masters couldn’t understand.
Originally it was cotton and tobacco that were cultivated by the colonists, but by the 1640s the sugar-cane industry had completely taken over. Barbados’ sugar-cane production dominated other sugar-cane industries in the Caribbean, mostly because the owners of these plantations were powerful and successful businessmen. Due to the import of slaves to the island, the sugar industry did very well, even though this importation of slaves resulted in an imbalanced ratio of slaves to their masters.
The industry suffered in the late 1600s due to natural disasters occurring in Barbados, which resulted in financial problems for the sugar-cane industry. But still, despite these setbacks, the sugar-cane industry manned by the slaves, continued. The result was that the industry became very profitable for Barbados, which meant more African slaves and a dramatic increase in the island’s black population. However, by the year 1720 Barbados’s sugar-cane industry no longer led the field because countries like Jamaica and the Leeward Islands had taken over.
The Legal System of Barbados
It was in 1639 that Barbados held its very first Parliament and became the third-oldest in the Commonwealth – third only to the British House of Commons and the Bermuda House of Assembly. English traditions and law held strong roots in the legal system of Barbados, so-much-so that the island was soon known as Little England.
- The judicial and legal system of Barbados fall under the responsibility of the attorney general;
- The judicial system of Barbados comprises a Supreme Court (including a High Court and Court of Appeal) and a Lower Magistrates Court;
- The courts of Barbados are comprised exclusively of local legislation and are responsible for governing the laws of the country.
In the past, final appeals from Barbadian courts were held in the English Privy Council; however, with the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (which is based in Trinidad and Tobago), the CCG has taken over.
Barbados moved towards becoming an independent nation after being a British colony.
- Slaves were emancipated in 1834;
- Women were given their constitutional right to vote in 1944;
- 1951 was the year of universal adult suffrage;
- Then, during the 1950s, with the birth of the two-party system and a cabinet government, Barbados was well and truly prepared for independence. This was finally granted on the 30th November 1966.
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