In the late 1600s sugarcane became the primarily crop on the islands after Sir Christopher
Codrington established sugarcane plantations with much success. With this new cash
crop under British presence and diminished native
populations due to disease, Africans were brought in to work
the land as slaves; of the few remaining Caribs, many died in this new wave of foreign
diseases from Africa. The major crops grown on the islands shifted from tobacco,
indigo, and sugarcane to almost exclusively sugarcane. To produce these products
much manual labor was needed, making the islands dominated by people of African
descent and smaller numbers of British land owners.
In the 1700s Antigua & Barbuda became the
center of the British Caribbean naval fleet. This
hurt the local economy since the major importer of their sugarcane was the
United States; a law outlawing the export of any good from a British colony
to the United States essentially shut down the economy for some time.
In 1834 the slaves of Antigua & Barbuda
were freed, but all land was owned by the British landowners so these former slaves
remained dependent on their former owners. This situation changed little until 1946
when the workers formed unions and gained political power. From this point on, the
workers have controlled the government, but they didn't gain true control over
the government until 1981 when the islands gained independence from
Britain (but remained a part of the Commonwealth).
Since 1981 little has changed in Antigua & Barbuda
other than a growing tourism industry and the purchasing of houses by
American celebrities on the islands.