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Centre for Barbados Studies in History and Genealogy
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Discovering Barbados
Richard Ligon, 1657
"The Iland is divided into three sorts of men, viz. Masters, Servants, and slaves."


Rich in history, Barbados boasts a proud and colorful heritage. In many ways, Barbados was England's earliest successful effort in creating an export colony.

Starting with tobacco and indigo, the island became a virtual empire of traders -- traders with an unquenchable thirst for more. Enter the era of the sugar plantations and the labor it required in the form of white slaves and indentured servants from Ireland, Scotland, and England. As the planters' thirst grew, so did the need for the even cheaper labor so readily available for purchase by way of slaves from Africa.

Initially, Barbados had one of the largest white populations of all of the English colonies. From that standpoint, it served as a launching pad for migration to many of the other Caribbean islands, as well as the colonies of Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Some have estimated that near to 400,000 Africans suffered the middle passage only to further suffer a life of slavery on the Barbados.

Some might argue that Barbados' sugar industry was the beginning of what the Western world came to know as industrialism. Control of labor, machinery, shipping, and the military forces needed to protect all these efforts was an open invitation for pirates, brothels, and unending battles in every governmental layer -- all the fodder of legends that still abound.

Such was Barbados’ beginning. Today it is an island nation of unparalleled beauty, rugged coastal scenery, a hot-spot for important tourism, and a harmonious mix of all ethnic backgrounds and religious denominations. A place where the richness of the past is reflected in its every day.

"The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause."
Henri Louis Bergson
Map of Bridgetown, Barbados