In the 1640s and 1650s, with revolution in the United Kingdom,
chaos ensued in Barbados as the governor and members of
their elected assembly argued over who they supported in England. During this time
and in these battles, the island was also banned from trading with the
Netherlands, a significant trading partner at the time, striking a substantial
blow to Barbados's economy. However, just prior to this ban on trade with the
Dutch, the sugarcane industry was introduced and rapidly expanded.
From the 1640s the sugarcane industry rapidly grew, this is industry is quite labor
intensive so rich land owners bought out small lands and began importing
African slaves, altering the island's land ownership patterns as well
as altering the ethnic makeup. This industry supported Barbados's
rise as the largest exporter among the British colonies.
However, it also pushed out most of the ethnic British population who came as indentured
servants as they were replaced by African slaves who were cheaper to employee and
had no working condition standards that had to be met.
The slaves on Barbados were generally treated poorly and
a number of slave rebellions rose up, most notably "Bussa's Rebellion"
in 1816. This rebellion failed, but helped encourage the
United Kingdom to eventually outlaw slavery in 1834. Despite the freedom
of these former slaves, there were minimum income requirements to vote so the British
minority continued to rule the island's politics through the century and well
into the 1900s. It wasn't until 1942 that the income requirement was lowered
and women were given the right to vote and the primarily black population gained
In 1966 Barbados negotiated independence from the
United Kingdom, but remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since
this time Barbados has shifted gears economically from the sugar cane industry to
focusing on tourism. They have been quite politically stable as well.