Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of the Americas, and the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. It occupies an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi) and has a population of about 287,000 (2019 estimate). Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.
|Motto: "Pride and Industry"|
|Anthem: "In Plenty and In Time of Need"|
and largest city
|Vernacular language||Bajan Creole|
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Unitary parliamentary republic|
|House of Assembly|
from the United Kingdom
• Part of the West Indies Federation
|3 January 1958 – 31 May 1962|
|30 November 1966|
|7 December 1966|
|1 August 1973|
|30 November 2021|
|439 km2 (169 sq mi) (183rd)|
• Water (%)
• 2019 estimate
• 2010 census
|660/km2 (1,709.4/sq mi) (15th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2021)|| 0.790|
high · 70th
|Currency||Barbadian dollar ($) (BBD)|
|Time zone||UTC−4 (AST)|
|Calling code||+1 -246|
|ISO 3166 code||BB|
Inhabited by Kalinago people since the 13th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Spanish navigators took possession of Barbados in the late 15th century, claiming it for the Crown of Castile. It first appeared on a Spanish map in 1511. The Portuguese Empire claimed the island between 1532 and 1536, but abandoned it in 1620 with their only remnants being an introduction of wild boars for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. An English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados on 14 May 1625; its men took possession of the island in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and Barbados became an English and later British colony. During this period, the colony operated on a plantation economy, relying on the labour of enslaved Africans who worked on the island's plantations. The slave trade to the island continued until it was outlawed throughout the British Empire by the Slave Trade Act 1807, with final emancipation of enslaved persons in Barbados occurring over a period of five years following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
On 30 November 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as Queen of Barbados. On 30 November 2021, Barbados transitioned to a republic within the Commonwealth.
Barbados's population is predominantly of African descent. While it is technically an Atlantic island, Barbados is closely associated with the Caribbean and is ranked as one of its leading tourist destinations.
The name "Barbados" is from either the Portuguese term os barbados or the Spanish equivalent, los barbados, both meaning "the bearded ones". It is unclear whether "bearded" refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Banyan), (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, or to the allegedly bearded Caribs who once inhabited the island, or, more fancifully, to a visual impression of a beard formed by the sea foam that sprays over the outlying coral reefs. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Visconte Maggiolo showed and named Barbados in its correct position. Furthermore, the island of Barbuda in the Leewards is very similar in name and was once named "Las Barbudas" by the Spanish.
The original name for Barbados in the Pre-Columbian era was Ichirouganaim, according to accounts by descendants of the indigenous Arawakan-speaking tribes in other regional areas, with possible translations including "Red land with white teeth" or "Redstone island with teeth outside (reefs)" or simply "Teeth".
Colloquially, Barbadians refer to their home island as "Bim" or other nicknames associated with Barbados, including "Bimshire". The origin is uncertain, but several theories exist. The National Cultural Foundation of Barbados says that "Bim" was a word commonly used by slaves, and that it derives from the Igbo term bém from bé mụ́ meaning "my home, kindred, kind"; the Igbo phoneme [e] in the Igbo orthography is very close to //. The name could have arisen due to the relatively large percentage of enslaved Igbo people from modern-day southeastern Nigeria arriving in Barbados in the 18th century. The words "Bim" and "Bimshire" are recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionaries. Another possible source for "Bim" is reported to be in the Agricultural Reporter of 25 April 1868, where the Rev. N. Greenidge (father of one of the island's most famous scholars, Abel Hendy Jones Greenidge) suggested the listing of Bimshire as a county of England. Expressly named were "Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire and Bimshire". Lastly, in the Daily Argosy (of Demerara, i.e. Guyana) of 1652, there is a reference to Bim as a possible corruption of "Byam", the name of a Royalist leader against the Parliamentarians. That source suggested the followers of Byam became known as "Bims" and that this became a word for all Barbadians.
In the periodical intervals from 500,000 to 120,000 years ago, the island of which exists modern-day Barbados emerged from oceanic sediments when regular tectonic uplifts pushed out coral reefs of the surface water. Currently, dozens of inland sea reefs still dominate coastal features within terraces and cliffs of the island.
Archeological evidence suggests humans may have first settled or visited the island circa 1600 BC. More permanent Amerindian settlement of Barbados dates to about the 4th to 7th centuries AD, by a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid. Settlements of Arawaks from South America appeared by around 800 AD and again in the 12th-13th century. The Kalinago (called "Caribs" by the Spanish) visited the island regularly, although there is no evidence of permanent settlement.
It is uncertain which European nation arrived first in Barbados, which probably would have been at some point in the 15th century or 16th century. One lesser-known source points to earlier revealed works antedating contemporary sources, indicating it could have been the Spanish. Many, if not most, believe the Portuguese, en route to Brazil, were the first Europeans to come upon the island. The island was largely ignored by Europeans, though Spanish slave raiding is thought to have reduced the native population, with many fleeing to other islands.
The first English ship, which had arrived on 14 May 1625, was captained by John Powell. The first settlement began on 17 February 1627, near what is now Holetown (formerly Jamestown, after King James I of England), by a group led by John Powell's younger brother, Henry, consisting of 80 settlers and 10 English indentured labourers. Some sources state that some Africans were amongst these first settlers.
The settlement was established as a proprietary colony and funded by Sir William Courten, a City of London merchant who acquired the title to Barbados and several other islands. The first colonists were actually tenants, and much of the profits of their labour returned to Courten and his company. Courten's title was later transferred to James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle, in what was called the "Great Barbados Robbery". Carlisle then chose as governor Henry Hawley, who established the House of Assembly in 1639, in an effort to appease the planters, who might otherwise have opposed his controversial appointment.
In the period 1640–1660, the West Indies attracted over two-thirds of the total number of English emigrants to the Americas. By 1650 there were 44,000 settlers in the West Indies, as compared to 12,000 on the Chesapeake and 23,000 in New England. Most English arrivals were indentured. After five years of labour, they were given "freedom dues" of about £10, usually in goods. Before the mid-1630s, they also received 5 to 10 acres (2 to 4 hectares) of land, but after that time the island filled and there was no more free land. During the Cromwellian era (1650s) this included a large number of prisoners-of-war, vagrants and people who were illicitly kidnapped, who were forcibly transported to the island and sold as servants. These last two groups were predominantly Irish, as several thousand were infamously rounded up by English merchants and sold into servitude in Barbados and other Caribbean islands during this period, a practice that came to be known as being Barbadosed. Cultivation of tobacco, cotton, ginger and indigo was thus handled primarily by European indentured labour until the start of the sugar cane industry in the 1640s and the growing reliance on and importation of enslaved Africans.
Parish registers from the 1650s show that for the white population, there were four times as many deaths as marriages. The mainstay of the infant colony's economy was the growth export of tobacco, but tobacco prices eventually fell in the 1630s as Chesapeake production expanded.
Around the same time, fighting during the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Interregnum spilled over into Barbados and Barbadian territorial waters. The island was not involved in the war until after the execution of Charles I, when the island's government fell under the control of Royalists (ironically the Governor, Philip Bell, remaining loyal to Parliament while the Barbadian House of Assembly, under the influence of Humphrey Walrond, supported Charles II). To try to bring the recalcitrant colony to heel, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act on 3 October 1650 prohibiting trade between England and Barbados, and because the island also traded with the Netherlands, further Navigation Acts were passed, prohibiting any but English vessels trading with Dutch colonies. These acts were a precursor to the First Anglo-Dutch War. The Commonwealth of England sent an invasion force under the command of Sir George Ayscue, which arrived in October 1651. Ayscue, with a smaller force that included Scottish prisoners, surprised a larger force of Royalists, but had to resort to spying and diplomacy ultimately. On 11 January 1652, the Royalists in the House of Assembly led by Lord Willoughby surrendered, which marked the end of royalist privateering as a major threat. The conditions of the surrender were incorporated into the Charter of Barbados (Treaty of Oistins), which was signed at the Mermaid's Inn, Oistins, on 17 January 1652.
Starting with Cromwell, a large percentage of the white labourer population were indentured servants and involuntarily transported people from Ireland. Irish servants in Barbados were often treated poorly, and Barbadian planters gained a reputation for cruelty.: 55 The decreased appeal of an indenture on Barbados, combined with enormous demand for labour caused by sugar cultivation, led to the use of involuntary transportation to Barbados as a punishment for crimes, or for political prisoners, and also to the kidnapping of labourers who were sent to Barbados involuntarily.: 55 Irish indentured servants were a significant portion of the population throughout the period when white servants were used for plantation labour in Barbados, and while a "steady stream" of Irish servants entered the Barbados throughout the seventeenth century, Cromwellian efforts to pacify Ireland created a "veritable tidal wave" of Irish labourers who were sent to Barbados during the 1650s.: 56 Due to inadequate historical records, the total number of Irish labourers sent to Barbados is unknown, and estimates have been "highly contentious".: 56 While one historical source estimated that as many as 50,000 Irish people were transported to either Barbados or Virginia unwillingly during the 1650s, this estimate is "quite likely exaggerated".: 56 Another estimate that 12,000 Irish prisoners had arrived in Barbados by 1655 has been described as "probably exaggerated" by historian Richard B. Sheridan.: 236 According to historian Thomas Bartlett, it is "generally accepted" that approximately 10,000 Irish were sent to the West Indies involuntarily, and approximately 40,000 came as voluntary indentured servants, while many also travelled as voluntary, un-indentured emigrants.: 256
The introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil in 1640 completely transformed society, the economy and the physical landscape. Barbados eventually had one of the world's biggest sugar industries. One group instrumental in ensuring the early success of the industry was the Sephardic Jews, who had originally been expelled from the Iberian peninsula, to end up in Dutch Brazil. As the effects of the new crop increased, so did the shift in the ethnic composition of Barbados and surrounding islands. The workable sugar plantation required a large investment and a great deal of heavy labour. At first, Dutch traders supplied the equipment, financing, and enslaved Africans, in addition to transporting most of the sugar to Europe. In 1644 the population of Barbados was estimated at 30,000, of which about 800 were of African descent, with the remainder mainly of English descent. These English smallholders were eventually bought out and the island filled up with large sugar plantations worked by enslaved Africans. By 1660 there was near parity with 27,000 blacks and 26,000 whites. By 1666 at least 12,000 white smallholders had been bought out, died, or left the island, many choosing to emigrate to Jamaica or the American Colonies (notably the Carolinas). As a result, Barbados enacted a slave code as a way of legislatively controlling its black enslaved population. The law's text was influential in laws in other colonies.
The harsh conditions endured by the slaves resulted in several planned slave rebellions, the largest of which was Bussa's rebellion in 1816 which was rapidly suppressed by the colonial authorities. In 1819, another slave revolt broke out on Easter Day. The revolt was put down in blood, with heads being displayed on stakes. Nevertheless, the brutality of the repression shocked even England and strengthened the abolitionist movement. Growing opposition to slavery led to its abolition in the British Empire in 1833. The plantocracy class retained control of political and economic power on the island, with most workers living in relative poverty.
Deep dissatisfaction with the situation on Barbados led many to emigrate. Things came to a head in the 1930s during the Great Depression, as Barbadians began demanding better conditions for workers, the legalisation of trade unions and a widening of the franchise, which at that point was limited to male property owners. As a result of the increasing unrest the British sent a commission, called the West Indies Royal Commission, or Moyne Commission, in 1938, which recommended enacting many of the requested reforms on the islands. As a result, Afro-Barbadians began to play a much more prominent role in the colony's politics, with universal suffrage being introduced in 1950.
Prominent among these early activists was Grantley Herbert Adams, who helped found the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in 1938. He became the first Premier of Barbados in 1953, followed by fellow BLP-founder Hugh Gordon Cummins from 1958 to 1961. A group of left-leaning politicians who advocated swifter moves to independence broke off from the BLP and founded the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1955. The DLP subsequently won the 1961 Barbadian general election and their leader Errol Barrow became premier.
Full internal self-government was enacted in 1961. Barbados joined the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962, later gaining full independence on 30 November 1966. Errol Barrow became the country's first prime minister. Barbados opted to remain within the Commonwealth of Nations. The broken trident on its national flag recalls its legacy when Barbados was a British colony and symbolises that it has broken away from three centuries of colonial rule.
The effect of independence meant that the Queen of the United Kingdom ceased to have sovereignty over Barbados, but the island chose to remain a constitutional monarchy with Elizabeth II as Queen of Barbados. The Monarch was represented locally by a Governor-General.
The Barrow government sought to diversify the economy away from agriculture, seeking to boost industry and the tourism sector. Barbados was also at the forefront of regional integration efforts, spearheading the creation of CARIFTA and CARICOM. The DLP lost the 1976 Barbadian general election to the BLP under Tom Adams. Adams adopted a more conservative and strongly pro-Western stance, allowing the Americans to use Barbados as the launchpad for their invasion of Grenada in 1983. Adams died in office in 1985 and was replaced by Harold Bernard St. John; however, St. John lost the 1986 Barbadian general election, which saw the return of the DLP under Errol Barrow, who had been highly critical of the US intervention in Grenada. Barrow, too, died in office, and was replaced by Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, who remained Prime Minister until 1994.
Owen Arthur of the BLP won the 1994 Barbadian general election, remaining Prime Minister until 2008. Arthur was a strong advocate of republicanism, though a planned referendum to replace Queen Elizabeth as Head of State in 2008 never took place. The DLP won the 2008 Barbadian general election, but the new Prime Minister David Thompson died in 2010 and was replaced by Freundel Stuart. The BLP returned to power in 2018 under Mia Mottley, who became Barbados's first female Prime Minister.
The Government of Barbados announced on 15 September 2020 that it intended to become a republic by 30 November 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence resulting in the replacement of the Barbadian monarchy with an elected president. Barbados would then cease to be a Commonwealth realm, but could maintain membership in the Commonwealth of Nations, like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
On 20 September 2021, just over a full year after the announcement for the transition was made, the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2021 was introduced to the Parliament of Barbados. Passed on 6 October, the Bill made amendments to the Constitution of Barbados, introducing the office of the president of Barbados to replace the role of Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados. The following week, on 12 October 2021, incumbent Governor-General of Barbados Sandra Mason was jointly nominated by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition as candidate to be the first president of Barbados, and was subsequently elected on 20 October. Mason took office on 30 November 2021. Prince Charles, who was heir apparent to the Barbadian Crown, attended the swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown at the invitation of the Government of Barbados.
Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of congratulations to President Mason and the people of Barbados, saying: "As you celebrate this momentous day, I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future."
A survey that was conducted between 23 October 2021, and 10 November 2021, by the University of the West Indies showed 34% of respondents being in favour of transitioning to a republic, while 30% were indifferent. Notably, no overall majority was found in the survey; with 24% not indicating a preference, and the remaining 12% being opposed to the removal of Queen Elizabeth.
On 20 June 2022, a Constitutional Review Commission was formed and sworn in by Jeffrey Gibson (who, at the time, was serving temporarily as Acting President of Barbados) to review the Constitution of Barbados.
The Commission will have an 18-month timeline to complete its work. They are expected to solicit input from members of the public in Barbados via a series of face-to-face and online events.
Barbados is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the other West Indies Islands. Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles. It is 34 kilometres (21 miles) long and up to 23 km (14 mi) wide, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It lies about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; 180 km (110 mi) south-east of Martinique and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. It is flat in comparison to its island neighbours to the west, the Windward Islands. The island rises gently to the central highland region known as Scotland District, with the highest point being Mount Hillaby 340 m (1,120 ft) above sea level.
In the parish of Saint Michael lies Barbados's capital and main city, Bridgetown, containing one third of the country's population. 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.
Barbados lies on the boundary of the South American and the Caribbean Plates. The subduction of the South American plate beneath the Caribbean plate scrapes sediment from the South American plate and deposits it above the subduction zone forming an accretionary prism. The rate of this depositing of material allows Barbados to rise at a rate of about 25 mm (1 in) per 1,000 years. This subduction means geologically the island is composed of coral roughly 90 m (300 ft) thick, where reefs formed above the sediment. The land slopes in a series of "terraces" in the west and goes into an incline in the east. A large proportion of the island is circled by coral reefs.
The erosion of limestone in the northeast of the island, in the Scotland District, has resulted in the formation of various caves and gullies. On the Atlantic east coast of the island coastal landforms, including stacks, have been created due to the limestone composition of the area. Also notable in the island is the rocky cape known as Pico Teneriffe or Pico de Tenerife, which is named after the fact that the island of Tenerife in Spain is the first land east of Barbados according to the belief of the locals.
The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall. Known as the "wet season", this period runs from June to December. By contrast, the "dry season" runs from December to May. Annual precipitation ranges between 1,000 and 2,300 mm (40 and 90 in). From December to May the average temperatures range from 21 to 31 °C (70 to 88 °F), while between June and November, they range from 23 to 31 °C (73 to 88 °F).
On the Köppen climate classification scale, much of Barbados is regarded as a tropical monsoon climate (Am). However, breezes of 12 to 16 km/h (7 to 10 mph) abound throughout the year and give Barbados a climate which is moderately tropical.
Infrequent natural hazards include earthquakes, landslips, and hurricanes. Barbados lies outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt and is often spared the worst effects of the region's tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season. Its location in the south-east of the Caribbean region puts the country just outside the principal hurricane strike zone. On average, a major hurricane strikes about once every 26 years. The last significant hit from a hurricane to cause severe damage to Barbados was Hurricane Janet in 1955; in 2010 the island was struck by Hurricane Tomas, but this caused only minor damage across the country as it was only at Tropical Storm level of formation.
Barbados is susceptible to environmental pressures. As one of the world's most densely populated isles, the government worked during the 1990s to aggressively integrate the growing south coast of the island into the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant to reduce contamination of offshore coral reefs. As of the first decade of the 21st century, a second treatment plant has been proposed along the island's west coast. Being so densely populated, Barbados has made great efforts to protect its underground aquifers.
As a coral-limestone island, Barbados is highly permeable to seepage of surface water into the earth. The government has placed great emphasis on protecting the catchment areas that lead directly into the huge network of underground aquifers and streams. On occasion illegal squatters have breached these areas, and the government has removed squatters to preserve the cleanliness of the underground springs which provide the island's drinking water.
The government has placed a huge emphasis on keeping Barbados clean with the aim of protecting the environment and preserving offshore coral reefs which surround the island. Many initiatives to mitigate human pressures on the coastal regions of Barbados and seas come from the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU). Barbados has nearly 90 kilometres (56 miles) of coral reefs just offshore and two protected marine parks have been established off the west coast. Overfishing is another threat which faces Barbados.
Although on the opposite side of the Atlantic, and some 4,800 kilometres (3,000 miles) west of Africa, Barbados is one of many places in the American continent that experience heightened levels of mineral dust from the Sahara Desert. Some particularly intense dust episodes have been blamed partly for the impacts on the health of coral reefs surrounding Barbados or asthmatic episodes, but evidence has not wholly supported the former claim.
Access to biocapacity in Barbados is much lower than world average. In 2016, Barbados had 0.17 global hectares of biocapacity per person within its territory, much less than the world average of 1.6 global hectares per person. In 2016 Barbados used 0.84 global hectares of biocapacity per person - their ecological footprint of consumption. This means they use approximately five times as much biocapacity as Barbados contains. As a result, Barbados is running a biocapacity deficit.
Barbados is host to four species of nesting turtles (green turtles, loggerheads, hawksbill turtles, and leatherbacks) and has the second-largest hawksbill turtle-breeding population in the Caribbean. The driving of vehicles on beaches can crush nests buried in the sand and such activity is discouraged in nesting areas.
Barbados is also the host to the green monkey. The green monkey is found in West Africa from Senegal to the Volta River. It has been introduced to the Cape Verde islands off north-western Africa, and the West Indian islands of Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Martin, and Barbados. It was introduced to the West Indies in the late 17th century when slave trade ships travelled to the Caribbean from West Africa. The green monkey is considered a very curious and mischievous/troublesome animal by locals.
The 2010 national census conducted by the Barbados Statistical Service reported a resident population of 277,821, of which 144,803 were female and 133,018 were male.
The life expectancy for Barbados residents as of 2020[update] is 80 years. The average life expectancy is 83 years for females and 79 years for males (2020). Barbados and Japan have the highest per capita occurrences of centenarians in the world.
The crude birth rate is 12.23 births per 1,000 people, and the crude death rate is 8.39 deaths per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate is 11.63 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Close to 90% of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as "Bajan") are of Afro-Caribbean descent ("Afro-Bajans") and mixed descent. The remainder of the population includes groups of Europeans ("Anglo-Bajans" / "Euro-Bajans") mainly from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and Italy. Other European groups consisted of the French, Austrians, Spaniards, and Russians. Asians, predominantly from Hong Kong and India (both Hindu and Muslim) make up less than 1% of the population. Other groups in Barbados include people from the United States and Canada. Barbadians who return after years of residence in the United States and children born in America to Bajan parents are called "Bajan Yankees", a term considered derogatory by some. Generally, Bajans recognise and accept all "children of the island" as Bajans, and refer to each other as such.
The biggest communities outside the Afro-Caribbean community are:
English is the official language of Barbados, and is used for communications, administration, and public services all over the island. In its capacity as the official language of the country, the standard of English tends to conform to vocabulary, pronunciations, spellings, and conventions akin to, but not exactly the same as, those of British English. For most people, however, Bajan Creole is the language of everyday life. It does not have a standardised written form, but it is used by over 90% of the population.
Christianity is the largest religion in Barbados, with the largest denomination being Anglican (23.9% of the population in 2019). Other Christian denominations with significant followings in Barbados are the Catholic Church (administered by Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgetown), Pentecostals (19.5%), Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Spiritual Baptists. The Church of England was the official state religion until its legal disestablishment by the Parliament of Barbados following independence. As of 2019, 21% of Barbadians report having no religion, making the non-religious the second largest group after Anglicans. Smaller religions in Barbados include Hinduism, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith, and Judaism.
Barbados has been an independent country since 30 November 1966. It functions as a parliamentary republic modelled on the British Westminster system. The head of state is the President of Barbados – presently Sandra Mason – elected by the Parliament of Barbados for a term of four years, and advised on matters of the Barbadian state by the Prime Minister of Barbados, who is head of government. There are 30 representatives within the House of Assembly, the lower chamber of Parliament. In the Senate, the upper chamber of Parliament, there are 21 senators.
The Constitution of Barbados is the supreme law of the country. Legislation is passed by the Parliament of Barbados but does not have the force of law unless the President grants her assent to that law. The right to withhold assent is absolute and cannot be overridden by Parliament. The Attorney General heads the independent judiciary.
During the 1990s, at the suggestion of Trinidad and Tobago's Patrick Manning, Barbados attempted a political union with Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. The project stalled after the then prime minister of Barbados, Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, became ill and his Democratic Labour Party lost the next general election. Barbados continues to share close ties with Trinidad and Tobago and with Guyana, claiming the highest number of Guyanese immigrants after the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Barbados functions as a two-party system. The dominant political parties are the Democratic Labour Party and the incumbent Barbados Labour Party. Since independence on 30 November 1966, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has governed from 1966 to 1976; 1986 to 1994; and from 2008 to 2018; and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has governed from 1976 to 1986; 1994 to 2008; and from 2018 to present.
Barbados follows a policy of nonalignment and seeks cooperative relations with all friendly states. Barbados is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In 2005, Barbados replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal.
Barbados is an original member (1995) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and participates actively in its work. It grants at least MFN treatment to all its trading partners. European Union relations and cooperation with Barbados are carried out both on a bilateral and a regional basis. Barbados is party to the Cotonou Agreement, through which, As of December 2007[update], it is linked by an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Commission. The pact involves the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) subgroup of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). CARIFORUM is the only part of the wider ACP-bloc that has concluded the full regional trade-pact with the European Union. There are also ongoing EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues.
Trade policy has also sought to protect a small number of domestic activities, mostly food production, from foreign competition, while recognising that most domestic needs are best met by imports.
On 6 July 1994, at the Sherbourne Conference Centre, St. Michael, Barbados, representatives of eight countries signed the Double Taxation Relief (CARICOM) Treaties 1994. The countries which were represented were: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
On 19 August 1994, a representative of the Government of Guyana signed a similar treaty.
The Barbados Defence Force has roughly 800 members. Within it, service members aged 14 to 18 years make up the Barbados Cadet Corps. The defence preparations of the island nation are closely tied to defence treaties with the United Kingdom, the United States, and the People's Republic of China.
The Barbados Police Service is the sole law enforcement agency on the island of Barbados.
Barbados is divided into 11 parishes: