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The island nation of Barbados is situated in the Lesser Antilles and is the easternmost of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is approximately 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, with an area of 167 square miles. The capital is Bridgetown, which no longer has a local municipal government. Instead, it is governed by representation in the nation's parliament. The island was originally inhabited by several Amerindian peoples, including the Arawaks.

Since the 13th century, it was home to the Kalinago people who are also known as the Caribs. They were fierce warriors who would attack nearby islands and were cannibals. The word "cannibal" comes from their name. There is some debate as to whether they regularly cannibalized people or did so strictly for ceremonial reasons.

In the late 15th century, the Spanish arrived and claimed Barbados for the Spanish Crown. The Portuguese stopped by the island in 1536, but they left fairly quickly without claiming it for Portugal. They did introduce wild hogs to the island. The Olive Blossom, an English ship, bought men who claimed it in King James I in 1625.

Sugar cane was introduced by the Dutch Brazil, now known as New Holland, in about 1640, and it changed everything, as Barbados grew to have one of the largest sugar industries in the world. As the local industry grew, so did the need for cheap and heavy labor.

In the beginning, the equipment, financing and slaves were supplied by Dutch traders who also carried the sugar back to Europe. As the sugar plantations increased in both size and number, and transformed both the economy and the social structure of Barbados. Early on, the main cash crops were tobacco, ginger, and cotton.

In the early 17th century, the work in those fields was done by African slaves and indentured servants from Europe, but later, prisoners-of-war and people who had been kidnapped and brought to the island, primarily Irish men, provided labor as well. The first permanent settlers showed up in 1627 to inhabit an English colony.

The colony grew sugar but more significantly, it was a center of the slave trade until 1807 when slavery was abolished in England.

In 1780, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles killed between 20,000 and 22,000 in the Lesser Antilles from October 10 through the 16th. It remains the most deadly Atlantic hurricane in history.

According to witnesses, the noise produced by the hurricane was "so deafening that people could not hear their own voices. It stripped the bark off of trees, which, according to modern scientists, would require winds of more than 200 miles per hour.

When it was over, not a single tree was left standing and not a single house remained. The winds carried English cannons away, and more than 4,500 people on Barbados died.

The population, which consisted of 27,000 African slaves and 26,000 whites in 1660, and in 1833, all slaves in Barbados, approximately 83,000, were emancipated. The population is still primarily people of African descent. In 1854, a cholera epidemic in Barbados killed more than 20,000 Barbadians.

On November 30, 1966, Barbados was declared an independent state. It is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The fact that it is a constitutional monarchy means that the British monarch as the head of state but rather than monarch wielding unlimited and absolute power, he or she must abide by the constitution.

As a parliamentary democracy, the country's laws are made by elected officials who represent groups of people, as opposed to a direct democracy where individuals vote on laws and policy initiatives directly, or "one man, one vote." Barbados has a two-party system, as many other western nations, including the United States as well as Jamaica, use.

The law enforcement agency is the Royal Barbados Police Force. The Barbados Defence Force is the only branch of the military in Barbados, and it has approximately 600 troops. Three subsets of the Barbados Defence Force exist. The first is Barbados Regiment, which is the land force. It has both active and reserve units.

The Barbados Coast Guard is the maritime arm of the military. It also has both active and reserve units. They patrol the waters was well as intercept smugglers. The Barbados Cadet Corps, which is made up of members between the ages of 12 and 18, was founded in 1904 was all male until the 1970s, when girls were allowed to join. The nation of Barbados has treaties with the United States, United Kingdom, and China.



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