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Turner Beach in Antigua
Antigua ( or, locally, ) is an island in the West Indiesmarker, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbeanmarker region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbudamarker. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after a church in Spain, Santa Maria La Antigua — St. Mary the Ancient. It is also known as Wadadli, from the original Amerindian inhabitants, and means approximately "our own". The island's circumference is roughly and its area . Its population is about 69,000 as of July 2006. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands, and the most developed and prosperous due to its upscale tourism industry, offshore banking, internet gambling services and education services, including two medical schools.

Over 31,000 people live in the town of St. John'smarker, at . The capital is situated in the northwest, near to VC Bird International Airportmarker, and has a deep harbour which is able to accommodate large cruise ships. Other leading population settlements are All Saintsmarker (3,412) and Liberta (2,239), according to the 2001 census.

English Harbourmarker on the southeastern coast is famed for its protected shelter during violent storms. It is the site of a restored British colonial naval station called "Nelson's Dockyard" after Captain Horatio Nelson. Today English Harbour and the neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally famous as a yachting and sailing destination and provisioning centre. During Antigua Sailing Week, at the end of April and beginning of May, the annual world-class regatta brings many sailing vessels and sailors to the island to play sports.


Antigua's economy is reliant upon tourism, and it markets itself as a luxury Caribbean escape. Antigua also is supported by the growing medical school and its students. Many hotels and resorts are located around the coastline, and the island's single airport is serviced by several major airlines including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, US Airways, American Airlines, Continental, Delta Air Lines, Caribbean Airlines and Air Canada. The only regular service to Barbuda flies from VC Bird Airportmarker. The United States Air Force maintains a small base near the airport as part of its Eastern Range, used for space missions and communications.

Tourism was seriously impacted after the robbery and murders of Welsh honeymooners Ben and Catherine Mullany in June of 2008 in their hotel room. The two alleged murderers and their female accomplices have been ordered to trial.

The University of Health Sciences Antigua (UHSA) and the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine teach aspiring doctors.

The country's official currency is the East Caribbean dollar. However, many prices in tourist-oriented businesses are shown in US dollars. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of $1 US = $2.67 EC.For more information, including GDP per capita, see


Rocky shoreline near St. John's.
Dickenson Bay beach, Antigua

The early Antiguans

Antigua history, rich in intrigue, is well-known among maritime buffs and English scholars. Prior to European exploration, however, the first residents in Antigua history were the Ciboney Indians, who inhabited the island for several thousand years before mysteriously departing. Pastoral Arawak Indians settled here before being replaced by the Caribs, the last group in Antigua history to inhabit the island before it was discovered by Europeans. That occurred in 1493, when Christopher Columbus spotted Antigua on his second voyage. Antigua history did not change dramatically for nearly 150 years after, though, as the Caribs resisted any European efforts to colonise.

The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. This group paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from Venezuelamarker, ejected by the Caribs — another people indigenous to the area. Arawaks introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda, raising, among other crops, the famous Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated various other foods including:

Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still play an important role in Antiguan cuisine. For example, a popular Antiguan dish, dukuna ( ), is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. One of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi ( ), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.

The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about A.D. 1100. Those who remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs' superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West Indies. They enslaved some and cannibalised others.The Catholic Encyclopedia does note that the European invaders had difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups at the time may have been more varied and numerous than the two mentioned in this article.

Finally, in 1632, Sir Christopher Codrington, an Englishman, established the first permanent European settlement. From that point on, Antigua history took a dramatic turn. Codrington guided development on the island as a profitable sugar colony. For a large portion of Antigua history, the island was considered Britain's "Gateway to the Caribbean". It was located on the major sailing routes among the region's resource-rich colonies. Lord Horatio Nelson, a major figure in Antigua history, arrived in the late 18th century to preserve the island's commercial shipping prowess.

According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, European and African diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually destroyed the vast majority of the Caribbean's native population. No researcher has conclusively proven any of these causes as the real reason for the destruction of West Indian natives. In fact, some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of native deaths while in servitude. Others believe that the reportedly abundant, but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to severe malnutrition of the "Indians" who were used to a diet fortified with protein from sea-life.

The indigenous West Indians made excellent sea vessels which they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks populated much of South American and the Caribbean Islands. Relatives of the Antiguan Arawaks and Caribs still live in various countries in South America, notably Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The smaller remaining native populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage.


King's Harbour, 1745
According to the AntiguaNice web site, Christopher Columbus supposedly named the island "Antigua" in 1493 in honor of the Santa Maria La Antigua Cathedral in Seville. Unfortunately, this data seems to be inaccurate since this cathedral actually exists in Castilla y León, Spain. A common practice for Spanish explorers was to name newly "discovered" areas after Catholic saints. San Juan in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, Santa Barbara in the United States and others follow the same trend.

In 1632, a group of English colonists left St. Kitts to settle in Antigua. Under Edward Warner, their leader, they grew cash crops of tobacco, ginger, and indigo.


Sugar became Antigua's main crop from about 1674, when Christopher Codrington settled at Betty's Hope Estatemarker. He came from Barbadosmarker, bringing the latest sugar technology with him. Betty's Hope, Antigua's first full-scale sugar plantation, was so successful that other planters turned from tobacco to sugar. This resulted in their importing tens of thousands of slaves, as sugar cultivation and processing was labour intensive.

According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, many West Indian colonists initially tried to use Indians and whites as slaves. Unfortunately, these groups succumbed easily to disease and/or malnutrition, and died by the thousands. The African slaves had the misfortune of adapting well to the new environment; and thus became the number one choice of "unpaid labour." In fact, the slaves thrived physically and also provided medical services, and skilled labour, such as carpentry for their slave masters.

Today, collectors prize the uniquely designed "colonial" furniture created by West Indian slaves. Many of these works feature what are now considered "traditional" motifs, such as pineapples, fish and stylised serpents. The popular decorating magazine, Veranda, features a fascinating article on this subject; peppered with interesting photographs of the uniquely West Indian furnishings.

According to "A history of Antigua" by Bran Dyde, by the mid 1770s, the number of slaves had increased to 37,500 from 12,500 in 1713, whereas the white population had fallen from 5000 to below 3000. The slaves lived in wretched and overcrowded conditions, and could be mistreated or even killed by their owners with impunity. The Slave Act of 1723 made arbitrary murder of slaves illegal, but did not do much to ease their lives.

Unrest among the slaves became increasingly common. In 1729, a slave named Hercules was hanged, drawn and quartered, and three others burnt alive, for conspiring to kill the slave owner Crump and his family. In 1736, a slave called "Prince Klaas" (whose real name was Court) planned an uprising in which whites would be massacred. Court was crowned "King of the Coromantees" in a pasture outside the capital of St. John's, in what white observers thought was a colourful spectacle, but was for the slaves a ritual declaration of war on the whites. Due to information obtained from other slaves, colonists discovered the plot and suppressed it. Prince Klaas and four accomplices were caught and executed by the breaking wheel. Six slaves were hanged in chains and starved to death, and another fifty-eight were burned at the stake. The site of these executions is now the Antiguan Recreation Ground.

The American War of Independence in the late eighteenth century disrupted the Caribbean sugar trade. At the same time public opinion in Britain gradually turned against slavery. Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1808, and all existing slaves were emancipated in 1834.

Horatio Lord Nelson

Nelson's dockyard was started in 1725, to provide a base for a squadron of British ships whose main function was to patrol West Indies and thus maintain Britain's sea power.

Lord Nelson was Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands from 1784 to 1787 on H.M.S. Boreas. During his tenure, he tried to enforce the Navigation Acts. These acts prohibited trade with the newly formed United States of America. Most of the merchants in Antigua depended upon American trade, so many of them despised Lord Nelson. As a result, he was unable to get a promotion for some time after his stint on the island.

Conversely, the British considered Nelson a hero. The following quote from The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson by Robert Southey sums up his views about the controversial Navigation Acts:

The Americans were at this time trading with our islands, taking advantage of the register of their ships, which had been issued while they were British subjects.
Nelson knew that, by the Navigation Act, no foreigners, directly or indirectly, are permitted to carry on any trade with these possessions.
He knew, also, that the Americans had made themselves foreigners with regard to England; they had disregarded the ties of blood and language when they acquired the independence which they had been led on to claim, unhappily for themselves before they were fit for it; and he was resolved that they should derive no profit from those ties now.
Foreigners they had made themselves, and as foreigners they were to be treated.

Southey then quotes Nelson as saying that "[The Antiguan Colonists] are as great rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it."

Political status

In 1967, with Barbudamarker and the tiny island of Redondamarker as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 it achieved administrative independence from Britain. The country was then led by what many describe as an elected family dynasty, with Vere C. Bird, the first prime minister, having been succeeded in 1993 by Lester B. Bird, his son, who retained the post until 2004.


St. John's Cathedral

The ethnic distribution consist of 91% Black or Mulatto, 4.4% Other Mixed Race, 1.7% White, 2.9% Other. The majority of the white population is ethnically Irish and British, and Portuguese. There are also Christian Levantine Arabs (primarily of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian descent) and a small population of Asians and Sephardic Jews.

Behind the late twentieth century reviving and re-specifying of the place of African-Antiguans and Barbudans in the cultural life of the society, is a history of race/ethnic relations that systematically excluded them. A colonial framework was established by the English soon after their initial settlement of Antigua in 1623.

Mixed-race relationships and later immigration resulted by the late nineteenth century in the emergence of five distinct and carefully ranked race/ethnic groups. At the top of this hierarchy were the British, who justified their hegemony with arguments of white supremacy and civilizing missions. Among themselves, there were divisions between British Antiguans and non-creolised British, with the latter coming out on top. In short, this was a race/ethnic hierarchy that gave maximum recognition to Anglicised persons and cultural practices.

Immediately below the British, were the mulattoes, a mixed-race group resulting from unions between, generally, white European males and enslaved black African women, many of which took place in the years before the expansion of slave population. Mulattoes were lighter in shade than the masses of black Africans. Some white fathers had their sons educated or trained in crafts. They sometimes benefited them in other ways, which led to the development of a separate class. Mulattoes gradually distinguished themselves from the masses of enslaved black Africans. They developed complex ideologies of shade to legitimate their claims to higher status. These ideologies of shade paralleled in many ways British ideologies of white supremacy.

Next in this hierarchy were the Portuguese— 2500 of whom migrated as workers from Madeira between 1847 and 1852 because of a severe famine. Many established small businesses and joined the ranks of what was by then the mulatto middle class. The British never really considered Portuguese as their equals, so they were not allowed into their ranks. Among Portuguese Antiguans and Barbudans, status differences move along a continuum of varying degrees of assimilation into the Anglicised practices of the dominant group.

Below the Portuguese were the Middle Easterners, who began migrating to Antigua and Barbuda around the turn of the twentieth century. Starting as itinerant traders, they soon worked their way into the middle strata of the society. Although Middle Easterners came from a variety of areas in the Middle East, as a group they are usually referred to as Syrians.

Fifth and finally were the African-Antiguans and Barbudans who were located at the bottom of this hierarchy. Transported as slaves, Africans started arriving in Antigua and Barbuda in large numbers during the 1670s. Very quickly they came to constitute the majority of the population. As they entered this hierarchy, Africans were profoundly racialised. They ceased being Ashantee,Ewe,Yoruba and became Negroes or Blacks other African nationals make up the population of Antigua & Barbuda.

In the 20th century, the colonial hierarchy gradually began to be subversed as a result of universal education and better economic opportunity. This process gave rise to blacks reaching the highest strata of society and government.

In the last decade, Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic and African-Caribbean immigrants from Guyana and Dominica have been added to this ethnic mosaic. As new immigrants often fleeing poverty and political unrest, they have entered at the bottom of the hierarchy. It is still too early to predict what their patterns of assimilation and social mobility will be.

Today, an increasingly large percentage of Antiguans have migrated abroad, most notably to the United Kingdommarker (Antiguan Britons), United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly Dominicamarker, Guyanamarker and Jamaicamarker, with an increasing number of immigrants from the Dominican Republicmarker, St. Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker and Ghanamarker,Nigeriamarker. There is also a significant population of American citizens estimated at 4500 people, one of the largest American citizen populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.

Almost all Antiguans are Christians (74%), with the Anglican Church (about 44%) being the largest denomination. Catholicism is the other significant denomination, with the remainder being other Protestants: including Methodists, Moravians, Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists. There are also Jehovah's Witnesses. Non-Christian religions practiced on the islands include Rastafari, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i.


The major Antiguan sport is cricket. Sir Vivian Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans, who played for, and captained, the West Indies team. Richards scored the fastest Test century at the Antigua Recreation Groundmarker, it was also the venue at which Brian Lara twice broke the world record for an individual Test innings (375 in 1993/94, 400 not out in 2003/04, both times against England). Antigua was the location of a 2007 Cricket World Cup site, on a new Recreation Ground constructed on an old cane field in the north of the island. Both soccer and basketball are becoming popular among the island youth.Being surrounded by water, sailing has been one of the most popular sports for years with Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta being two of the regions most reputable sailing competitions. Hundreds of yachts from around the world compete around Antigua each year.Sport Fishing is also a very popular sport with several big competitions held yearly.Windsurfing was very popular until kitesurfing came to the island with a big splash. Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is very popular at Jabbawock Beach. Local Antiguan, Andre Phillip is one of the most famous kitesurfers in the world and spends much of his time training in Antigua and Barbuda.

There are several golf courses in Antigua.

Internet hosting and gaming

Antigua is a recognised centre for online gambling companies. Antigua was one of the first nations to legalise, licence and regulate online gaming. Some countries, most notably the United States, argue that because the gaming transaction is initiated in their jurisdictions that the act of online wagering is illegal. This argument has been repudiated by the World Trade Organization.

However in 2006 the United States Congress voted to approve the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act which criminalises the operations of offshore gaming operators which take wagers from American-based gamblers. This was a prima facie violation of the GATS treaty obligations enforced by the WTO, resulting in a series of rulings unfavourable to the US.

Lately an arbitration panel in a so-called Article 22 hearing ruled that the US failure to comply with WTO rules would attract a US$21 million sanction.

This is not the end of the issue, since further developments in US law and in trade patterns can trigger a new claim by Antigua, especially the Article 21 procedure being followed by the US to remove cross-border gambling from its GATS obligations.

The ruling was notable in two respects:

First, although technically a victory for Antigua, the $21 million was far less than the US$3.5 billion which had been sought; one of the three arbitrators was sufficiently bothered by the propriety of this that he issued a dissenting opinion—an unprecedented move.

Second, a rider to the arbitration ruling affirmed the right of Antigua to take retaliatory steps in view of the prior failure of the US to comply with GATS. These included the rare, but not unprecedented, right to disregard intellectual property obligations to the US.

This last is of very great importance. Antigua's obligations to the US in respect of patents, copyright, and trademarks are affected. In particular, Berne Convention copyright is in question, and also material NOT covered by the Berne convention, including TRIPS accord obligations to the US. Antiqua may thus disregard the WIPO treaty on intellectual property rights, and therefore the US implementation of that treaty (the DMCA Act).

Since there is no appeal to the WTO from an Arbitration panel of this kind, it represents the last legal word from the WTO on the matter. Antigua is therefore able to recoup some of the claimed loss of trade by hosting (and taxing) companies whose business model depends on immunity from TRIPS provisions.

Software company SlySoft is based in Antigua, allowing it to avoid nations with laws that are tough on anti-circumvention of technological copyright measures, in particular the DMCA in the United States.



Notable residents


  1. Nation by Nation population estimate
  2. World Trade Organization: United States — Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services
  3. Register article on WTO arbitration of Antigua-US claims
  4. NY Times article on "Right to Piracy"


  • Antigua Nice (The Antigua Nice article was extracted by D.V. Nicholson's writings for the Antigua Historic Sites and Conservation Commission.)
  • The Torture Museum Site
  • The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson by Robert Southey
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Veranda Magazine, Island Flourish: West Indian Furnishings by Dana Micucci, March - April 2004
  • A Brief History of the Caribbean, A Brief History of the Caribbean from the Arawak and the Carib to the Present, by Jan Rogozinski, Penguin Putnam, Inc September 2000

  • Article on Antiguan real estate -

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