island state, West Indies, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The easternmost island of the West Indies, it lies E of Saint Vincent in the Lesser Antilles. Barbados is 34 km (21 mi) long and 23 km (14 mi) wide at its widest part; total area, 431 sq km (166 sq mi).
Land and Resourc
Barbados is generally flat along the coast and hilly in the interior. Mt. Hillaby, the highest point, rises to 336 m (1104 ft). Coral deposits form the surface of the island and are underlaid by sedimentary rock. Barbados has no natural deepwater harbors and is largely surrounded by coral reefs. The climate is tropical, tempered by sea breezes; the mean annual temperature is about 26.10 C (about 790 F). A rainy season prevails from June to December, with average annual rainfall varying from 1000 mm (about 40 in) on the coast to 2300 mm (about 90 in) on the central ridge. Hurricanes occasionally strike the island. Wildlife is limited and includes hares, monkeys, mongooses, tree frogs, and various species of birds. Barbados lacks mineral resources, and nearly all the natural vegetation has been cleared for cultivation.
Population, Education, and Cultural Activity
The population of Barbados is (1990) 257,083. The average population density of 596 persons per sq km (1549 per sq mi) is notably high considering the predominantly rural agricultural character of the island. The annual growth rate of the population during the 1970s and '80s was kept below 1% by outmigration. The capital, largest city, and only seaport is Bridgetown, with a population (1990) of 3070.
About 90% of the total population is black; the remaining portion is composed of whites and persons of mixed racial descent. English is the official language. More than 40% of the people are Anglicans; other important faiths include various Protestant sects and Roman Catholicism.
Education is free for children between the ages of 5 and 16. In the late 1980s approximately 29,500 pupils were enrolled in primary schools and 21,300 were enrolled in secondary schools. A campus of the University of the West Indies was established at Bridgetown in 1963.
The culture of Barbados combines English institutions, which evolved through more than three centuries of English rule, with a folk culture of African origin. The music and dances of Barbados reflect more purely the African heritage. The island has a museum and public library in Bridgetown and two daily newspapers.
Under the constitution of 1966 legislative power is vested in a parliament consisting of an upper house, the Senate, and a lower house, the House of Assembly. The Senate has 21 governmentappointed members; the 27 members of the House of Assembly are elected byuniversal suffrage (all citizens over the age of 18). The British monarch, nominally the head of state, is represented by a governorgeneral who presides over a privy council appointed after consultation with the prime minister. A cabinet, composed of the prime minister and other ministers responsible to the parliament, directs and controls the government.
The economy of Barbados has traditionally been dependent on the growing of sugarcane and the production and export of refined sugar, molasses, and rum. Sugarcane is grown principally on large estates rather than on small farms; the annual harvest in the late 1980s totaled 720,000 metric tons. Efforts have been made by the government to reduce the dependency on sugarcane products. Manufactures include clothing, furniture, electric and electronic equipment, and plastic items. Newly discovered reserves of petroleum and natural gas are being exploited. Fishing has also increased in importance. Tourist facilities have been developed, and since the late 1960s tourism has earned more foreign revenue than sugar products. Budget revenues total about $420 million, expenditures about $500 million.
The island is well served by roads, of which some 1475 km (some 915 mi) are paved. An international airport is located at Seawell in the SE. The artificial deepwater harbor of Bridgetown was opened in 1961. In 1972 a central bank was established and a new unit of currency adopted, the Barbados dollar (2.01 Barbados dollars equal U.S.$1; 1990).
Portuguese explorers probably landed on Barbados in the 16th century, but the first settlement was not established until 1627 and then by English colonists. It was made a Crown possession in 1663. The prosperity of the colony was gravely affected during the 18th century by war between the French and the British and by the American Revolution. Slavery on the island was abolished in 1834, leading to a substantial increase in agricultural production.
Severe riots, resulting in bloodshed and loss of property, occurred in 1876, when the British government proposed a confederation of Barbados and the Windward Islands, about 160 km (about 100 mi) to the west. In the following decades the African and mixed majority slowly rose to political power, eventually outnumbering the white landholders in the legislature.
In 1937 poor economic conditions caused serious unrest, and a British Royal Commission was sent to Barbados. As a result, social and political reforms were gradually introduced, and in 1950 universal adult suffrage was achieved. Barbados joined the Federation of the West Indies (195862), which included also Trinidad and Tobago.
Barbados gained full internal selfgovernment in 1961, and it became an independent state in the Commonwealth of the Nations on Nov. 30, 1966. The country is a member of the UN and of the Organization of American States. In 1973 Barbados helped form the Caribbean Community, an organization that promotes social and political cooperation and economic integration. Barbados has enjoyed a stable democratic government, and a transfer of power between the two major political partiesthe first since 1961was peacefully achieved in 1976. The election of 1986 reversed the position of the parties in the assembly, and Errol Barrow (192087) of the Democratic Labor party became prime minister. When Barrow died in June 1987, Erskine Sandiford (1937 ) succeeded him. Retained in office after the parliamentary elections of January 1991, Sandiford took steps to deal with rising crime and an economic downturn.
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