At 34km long and 23km wide, Barbados is 430km² and is divided into 11 parishes.
Take a look at the following hand-drawn map for some clues to the history of the island…
From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
The English first discovered Barbados in 1625. Two years later, they landed here, in Holetown and claimed the island for the British Empire.
By the mid-seventeenth century, the white minority’s authoritarian rule of Barbados was the prototype for European colonialism. From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
Olaudah Equiano, pictured here, grew up in Nigeria. At the age of eleven he was sold to white slave traders who took him across the Atlantic to Barbados, where he was enslaved to a Royal Navy captain and later a Quaker merchant. Eventually, by carefully trading and saving, he earned his freedom, before moving to London where he played a significant role in the abolitionist movement. From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
The Emancipation Statue seen here symbolises the breaking of the chains of slavery.
Slavery, abolished in 1834, was followed by a 4-year apprenticeship period where free men continued to work a 45-hour week without pay in exchange for living in tiny huts provided by the plantation owners.
One crop has dominated the story of Barbados’ development …
Can you guess what it is? IT’S SUGARCANE!
Even today, it dominates approximately 25% of the landscape. Sugarcane was the backbone of the Barbadian economy for centuries.
Sugarcane was introduced to the island by the early settlers and provided Britain with sugar, rum and molasses. From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
The majority of plantations grew sugarcane and were operated by slave labour. From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
By the mid-seventeenth century, Barbados had become both a leading participant in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and one of the most profitable European colonies in the world.
All of the plantations, which were in the main owned in Britain and operated by slave labour, grew sugar cane and most of them had their own mill for grinding the cane, extracting the juice and processing it.
Increased competition and pressure to reduce preferential trade agreements has seen the Barbados sugar industry decline.
Photograph: Chris Hoyle In 1950, the sugar industry employed 30,000. By 1999 it was employing only 3,000 people.
Photograph: Chris Hoyle This represented 56% of employment in the agricultural sector … and around 3% of the national workforce.
One of the major changes in the sugar industry over the years has been the move from being labour intensive...
... to full mechanisation.
In the past cane was harvested manually.
Men and women would cut the tall stalks, pile them into bundles to be loaded on to trucks and carts to be taken to the factories. From the collection of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society
Today, 90% of the crop is harvested mechanically. Photographer: Neville O. Badenock Copyright holder: Ibo Inc. 2006
26 2 Rationalisation of the industry has seen the number of factories on the island reduced from 26 at its height to 2 today.
There’s Andrews in St. Joseph … Photograph: Michelle Nihell
… and Portvale in St. James.
As a result....
… a system of transporting cane from all parts of the island has been set up using a number of trans-loading stations serving as collecting points.
Two former factories, Carrington in St. Philip and Bulkeley in St. George have been utilised for this purpose and it's from these two points that the canes are then loaded onto large trucks to be taken to Andrews and Portvale. Photographer: Neville O. Badenock, Copyright holder: Ibo Inc. 2006
Today, due to problems facing it, the Barbados sugarcane industry is considering diversifying the growing of cane for purposes other than sugar production: Firstly, through making board to be used in the construction industry.
And secondly by generating power through burning cane.
The Barbadian Sugar Industry has also attempted to carve niche markets in which it can sell premium sugar.
Plantation Reserve, is one such product, which has recently reached UK supermarket shelves.
So next time you visit Barbados, read about it or see it on television …
… pause and consider the role of sugar and slavery on the island. Photographer: Keith H. Clark
Barbados: Sugar and Slavery Photographer: Neville O. Badenock Copyright holder: Ibo Inc. 2006