history of Antigua and
Barbuda can be separated into three distinct
In the first, the islands were inhabited by three
islands were neglected by the first wave of European colonisation,
but were settled by England
1632. Under British control, the
islands witnessed an influx of both Britons and African slaves.
, the islands were granted independence as
the modern state of Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua was first
settled by pre-agricultural
Amerindians known as "Archaic People", (although they are commonly,
but erroneously known in Antigua as Siboney,
a preceramic Cuban people).
The earliest settlements on the
island date to 2900 BC. They were succeeded by ceramic-using agriculturalist Saladoid
people who migrated up the island chain from Venezuela.
They were later replaced by Arawakan
speakers around 1200 AD, and around
by Island Caribs
The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. They
paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from Venezuela, 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:
- sweet potatoes (White with firmer flesh than the bright orange
"sweet potato" used in the United States.)
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 (DOO-koo-NAH) is a
sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and
spices. In addition, one of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi
(FOON-ji), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.
The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about 1100 A.D. Those who
remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. According to the
Catholic Encyclopedia, the Carib's superior weapons and seafaring
prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West
Indies--enslaving some, and cannibalizing others.
The Catholic Encyclopedia does make it clear that the European
invaders had some difficulty identifying and differentiating
between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result,
the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups in existence
at the time may be much more varied and numerous than the two
mentioned in this Article.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean (Jan Rogozinski,
Penguin Putnam, Inc September 2000 ), 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 that 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.
the islands in 1493
, naming the larger one
Santa Maria de la Antigua
. However, early attempts by
Europeans to settle the islands failed due to the Caribs' excellent
defenses. England succeeded in colonising the islands in 1632
, with Thomas Warner
as the first
governor. Settlers raised tobacco
, and sugarcane
as cash crops. Sir Christopher Codrington
established the first large sugar estate in Antigua in 1674, and leased Barbuda to raise
provisions for his plantations. Barbuda's only
town is named after him.
In the fifty years after
Codrington established his initial plantation, the sugar industry
became so profitable that many farmers replaced other crops with
sugar, making it the economic backbone of the islands. Codrington
and others brought slaves
from Africa's west
coast to work the plantations under brutal conditions.
By 1736, so many slaves had been brought in from Africa that their
conditions were crowded and open to unrest. A slave called "Prince
Klaas" (whose real name was Count) planned an uprising in which the
whites would be massacred, but the plot was discovered and put
18th century, Antigua was used as the headquarters of the British Royal Navy Caribbean
English Dockyard, as it came to be called, a
sheltered and well-protected deepwater port, was the main base and
facilities there were greatly expanded during the later 18th
century. Admiral Lord Horatio
commanded the British fleet for much of this time, and
made himself unpopular with local merchants by enforcing the
, a British ruling that
only British-registered ships could trade with British colonies. As
the United States were no longer British colonies, the act posed a
problem for merchants, who depended on trade with the fledgling
With all others in the British
, Antiguan slaves were emancipated
remained economically dependent upon the plantation owners.
Economic opportunities for the new freedmen were limited by a lack
of surplus farming land, no access to credit, and an economy built
on agriculture rather than manufacturing. Poor labour conditions
persisted until 1939
when a member of a royal
commission urged the formation of a trade union movement.
The Antigua Trades and
, formed shortly afterward, became the political
vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird
who became the union's president in 1943
Antigua Labour Party
formed by Bird and other trade unionists, first ran candidates in
the 1946 elections and became the majority party in 1951
beginning a long history of electoral
Voted out of office in the 1971
elections that swept the progressive labour movement into power,
Bird and the ALP returned to office in 1976
Independent Antigua and Barbuda
islands achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, becoming the nation of Antigua and
It remains part of the Commonwealth of Nations
, and remains
a constitutional monarchy
with Queen Elizabeth
as Queen of
Antigua and Barbuda
In 1997, Prime Minister Lester Bird
announced that a group of ecologically sensitive islands just off
Antigua's northeastern coast, previously proposed for national park
status, were being turned over to Malaysian developers. The Guiana
Island Development Project deal, calling for a 1000-room hotel, an
18-hole golf course and a world-class casino, sparked widespread
criticism by environmentalists, minority members in parliament, and
the press. The issue came to a head when a local resident shot the
PM's brother. Today, the proposed development is mired in lawsuits
The ALP won renewed mandates in the general elections in 1984
. In the 1989
elections, the ruling ALP won all but two of the 17 seats. During
elections in March 1994
, power passed from Vere
Bird to his son, Lester Bird
remained within the ALP which won 11 of the 17 parliamentary seats.
won the 2004 elections
Minister, removing from power the longest-serving elected
government in the Caribbean.