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The People of ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

The People of ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

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Antigua is populated mostly by people of African origin who were brought to the Islands as slaves. There are also small numbers of Portuguese, British and Arab.

Population, total (millions)
Population growth (annual %)
Income share held by lowest 20%........
Life expectancy at birth, total (years)71747576
Fertility rate, total (births per woman)
Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19)76655245
Contraceptive prevalence, any methods (% of women ages 15-49)5353....
Births attended by skilled health staff (% of total)..100100100
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births)2615109
Prevalence of underweight, weight for age (% of children under 5)........
Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months)89959898
Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group)84..9477
School enrollment, primary (% gross)88.3114.99487.6
School enrollment, secondary (% gross)104699994
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI)1..11
Prevalence of HIV, total (% of population ages 15-49)........
Forest area (sq. km) (thousands)
Terrestrial and marine protected areas (% of total territorial area)00..0.3
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal resources)3.3..8.58.5
Urban population growth (annual %)0.31-1-0.6
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)1,482..1,598..
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)........
Merchandise trade (% of GDP)60554740
Net barter terms of trade index (2000 = 100)..1007258
External debt stocks, total (DOD, current US$) (millions)........
Total debt service (% of exports of goods, services and primary income)........
Net migration (thousands)300..

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, and around 1500 by Island Caribs there was, however, little difference between the two groups.

Christopher Columbus landed on 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 defences. England succeeded in colonising the islands in 1632, with Thomas Warner as the first governor. Settlers raised tobacco, indigo, ginger 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. The brutal treatment endured by the slaves prompted a planned rebellion in the early 18th century, masterminded by a slave nicknamed Prince Klaas. Before they could carry it out, their plan was discovered, and those involved were executed.

During the 18th century, Antigua was used as the headquarters of the British Royal Navy Caribbean fleet. 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 Nelson commanded the British fleet for much of this time, and made himself unpopular with local merchants by enforcing the Navigation Act, 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 country.

Political Development

With all others in the British Empire, Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834, but 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 Labour Union, formed shortly afterward, became the political vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird who became the union's president in 1943. The Antigua Labour Party (ALP), 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 victories.

Voted out of office in the 1971 general elections that swept the progressive labour movement into power, Bird and the ALP returned to office in 1976.



Antigua, the larger of the two main islands, is 108 sq mi (280 sq km). The island dependencies of Redonda (an uninhabited rocky islet) and Barbuda (a coral island formerly known as Dulcina) are 0.5 sq mi (1.30 sq km) and 62 sq mi (161 sq km), respectively.


The island of Antigua was explored by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville. Antigua was colonized by Britain in 1632 Barbuda was first colonized in 1678. Antigua and Barbuda joined the West Indies Federation in 1958. With the breakup of the federation, it became one of the West Indies Associated States in 1967, self-governing its internal affairs. Full independence was granted Nov. 1, 1981.

The Bird family has controlled the islands since Vere C. Bird founded the Antigua Labor Party in the mid-1940s. While tourism and financial services have turned the country into one of the more prosperous in the Caribbean, law enforcement officials have charged that Antigua and Barbuda is a major center of money laundering, drug trafficking, and arms smuggling. Several scandals tainted the Bird family, especially the 1995 conviction of Prime Minister Lester Bird's brother, Ivor, for cocaine smuggling. In 2000, Antigua and 35 other offshore banking centers agreed to reforms to prevent money laundering.

Bird Dynasty Ends

In March 2004, the Bird political dynasty came to an end when labor activist Baldwin Spencer defeated Lester Bird, who had been prime minister since 1994. In 2005, income tax, which had been eliminated in 1975, was reintroduced to help alleviate Antigua's deficit.

On July 17, 2007, Louise Lake-Tack became the first woman governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda. In June 2014, Gaston Browne led the Antigua Labour Party to victory in the general election. It was a return to power for the Antigua Labour Party after ten years as the opposition. The party won 14 of 17 seats. Brown was sworn in as prime minister on June 13. Governor-General Dame Louise Lake-Tack left office in August 2014. Antigua Labour Party member Rodney Williams replaced her.

The People of ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

Heavenly Hill Gallery Antigua
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It would be difficult to overestimate the impact on Antigua's history of the arrival, one fateful day in 1684, of Sir Christopher Codrington. An enterprising man, Codrington had come to Antigua to find out if the island would support the sort of large-scale sugar cultivation that already flourished elsewhere in the Caribbean. His initial efforts proved to be quite successful, and over the next fifty years sugar cultivation on Antigua exploded. By the middle of the 18th century the island was dotted with more than 150 cane-processing windmills--each the focal point of a sizeable plantation. Today almost 100 of these picturesque stone towers remain, although they now serve as houses, bars, restaurants and shops. At Betty's Hope , Codrington's original sugar estate, visitors can see a fully-restored sugar mill.

Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labor in the sugarcane fields. However, Antigua's history of habitation extends as far back as two and a half millenia before Christ. The first settlements, dating from about 2400 B.C., were those of the Siboney (an Arawak word meaning "stone-people"), peripatetic Meso-Indians whose beautifully crafted shell and stone tools have been found at dozens of sites around the island. Long after the Siboney had moved on, Antigua was settled by the pastoral, agricultural Arawaks (35-1100 A.D.), who were then displaced by the Caribs--an aggressive people who ranged all over the Caribbean. The earliest European contact with the island was made by Christopher Columbus during his second Caribbean voyage (1493), who sighted the island in passing and named it after Santa Maria la Antigua, the miracle-working saint of Seville. European settlement, however, didn't occur for over a century, largely because of Antigua's dearth of fresh water and abundance of determined Carib resistance. Finally, in 1632, a group of Englishmen from St. Kitts established a successful settlement, and in 1684, with Codrington's arrival, the island entered the sugar era.

By the end of the eighteenth century Antigua had become an important strategic port as well as a valuable commercial colony. Known as the "gateway to the Caribbean," it was situated in a position that offered control over the major sailing routes to and from the region's rich island colonies. Most of the island's historical sites, from its many ruined fortifications to the impeccably-restored architecture of English Harbourtown, are reminders of colonial efforts to ensure its safety from invasion.

Horatio Nelson arrived in 1784 at the head of the Squadron of the Leeward Islands to develop the British naval facilities at English Harbour and to enforce stringent commercial shipping laws. The first of these two tasks resulted in construction of Nelson's Dockyard , one of Antigua's finest physical assets the second resulted in a rather hostile attitude toward the young captain. Nelson spent almost all of his time in the cramped quarters of his ship, declaring the island to be a "vile place" and a "dreadful hole." Serving under Nelson at the time was the future King William IV, for whom the altogether more pleasant accommodation of Clarence House was built.

It was during William's reign, in 1834, that Britain abolished slavery in the empire. Alone among the British Caribbean colonies, Antigua instituted immediate full emancipation rather than a four-year 'apprenticeship,' or waiting period today, Antigua's Carnival festivities commemorate the earliest abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean.

The country hosts a very small population of Muslims numbering about 200 and representing only about 0.3% of the total population. Most of the Muslims living here trace their ancestral origins to Syria and Lebanon. Two Muslim organizations are active in Antigua and Barbua that cater to the needs of the small Muslim community of the country. A proper mosque is still non-existent in the country.

About 0.4% of the country’s population practice Hinduism. This figure is represented by about 379 adherents. The 2011 Census results indicate that the Hindu population on these islands have increased by over 40% from 157 adherents in 2001. Most of the Hindus of the country are immigrants from India.

1. Antigua and Barbuda’s location make these islands a great getaway throughout the whole year

Even though there are two islands (Antigua and Barbuda), they are often referred to as if they were only one, a fun fact about Antigua and Barbuda.

They are a sovereign state in the West Indies right in the American continent. They are located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. But they are also surrounded by smaller islands that form part of the West Indies (such as Redonda, Gree, Guiana, Long, Great Bird, Maiden and York Islands).

Due to its location, they also form part of the Leeward Islands, which is a part of the Lesser Antilles.

2. Antigua and Barbuda’s history is very interesting

Back in 1493, Christopher Columbus decided to explore Antigua, as it was his first time around this area. It was later called ‘’The Church of Santa María La Antigua’’.

Then, in 1632, Antigua was colonised by the United Kingdom, and a couple of years later, in 1678, Barbuda was also colonised by the British.

Many hundreds of years later, in 1958, the West Indies Federation was created, and Antigua and Barbuda joined the political union, even though it was short-lived as it only lasted for a couple of years.

The Federations went on to become the West Indies Associated States, another political union that lasted until 1967.

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda had to wait until the 1st of November in 1981, to have independence from the United Kingdom., an important fact about Antigua and Barbuda. This meant that the islands would have a position of self-governing its own internal affairs, but they would still form part of the Commonwealth (where Queen Elizabeth II from the United Kingdom is still the head of state).

3. Antigua made a competition where the next flag shall be designed (and it drew a lot of attention!)

In 1967, Antigua had become an associated state with the United Kingdom, so they had the opportunity to create a new flag that would represent them even better.

The government of the time decided they would create a contest in order to receive more options in terms of the design. The competition was quite intense, it even drew at least 600 entries.

The winner was Reginald Samuel, who was named as the new designer of Antigua’s flag, a fun fact about Antigua and Barbuda.

Later on, in 1981 when Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state, they decided to continue using the flag designed by Samuel as they felt it truly represented them.

4. Antigua and Barbuda’s carnival is recognised internationally

In fact, they don’t have anything to envy to other carnivals in bigger places, such as Brazil.

Many tourists are now even avoiding going to the Southern American countries when the Carnival is about to happen as they know they will be charged quite a lot for accommodation, food and even souvenirs!

Some of those tourists would like to experience a Caribbean carnival though, so they have now come across with Antigua’s Carnival that is often referred to as the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival.

Tourists are then able to see the streets with parades, troupes with masqueraders in very colorful costumes and street bands that continuously play calypso music.

5. Unlike other islands nearby, Flora and Fauna in Antigua and Barbuda is not as great

Did you know that Antigua and Barbuda don’t have a permanent lake? Or that it doesn’t rain as often in these islands? This has definitely something to do with the fact that both flora and fauna are not as great here in comparison to other islands nearby.

It is true though that you may be able to see some deer, mongooses, snakes or even some migrating birds, overall, the lack of water makes these Islands a very difficult place for animals or flora to survive.

6. The capital city of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint John, is a very colorful place

St. John is known for having very colorful houses and buildings all over the area, a fun fact about Antigua and Barbuda.

This city is also where the island’s main ports are located, and where they are able to export sugar cane, food, cotton, lumber and many other goods.

Even though Antigua and Barbuda are located in an area where they generally get great weather all-year-round, it can also be said that they have had problems with earthquakes, floods, and even droughts!

7. Antigua and Barbuda’s demographics shows how multicultural and welcoming they are

Even though the population of Antigua doesn’t even reach 100,000 individuals, it can be argued that those who do live on the islands are mostly people who come from West African countries or British descents.

There are black and mulatto people, but there are also mixed-race people, white people, Indian people and other Asian nationalities. Arabs from the Levantine region also live in Antigua and Barbuda, and recently there has been an increase in people moving to the islands that come from many Latin American countries.

Also, usually around both islands, English is spoken as a first and official language. They do, however, have a different accent, depending on where they live (either Antigua or Barbuda, or any other smaller islands).

Spanish is also spoken by a huge number of inhabitants, and in some schools, this language is taught, as it represents an opportunity due to the proximity of the other Caribbean islands and Latin America.


Antigua and Barbuda both have coasts that are contoured by perfect blue water, sandy beaches and a sun that seems to stay there throughout the year.

The capital city of Antigua, St. John, has a beautiful landscape filled with great restaurants that depict the local and traditional food of the island.

The islands’ historical forts are definitely something to admire, and overall, these places have something that makes them quintessentially Caribbean, something that everybody loves!

I hope that this article on Antigua and Barbuda fun facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Families in Antigua and Barbuda are creole formations. Among the white upper class creolization is minimal. Patterns of marriage, family organization, and gender roles are similar to those in the West with minor local adaptations. Much the same is true of the middle classes except for the greater presence of local adaptations. Among the black working class, family life is much more a mixture of the African and European systems. Although the institutions of bridewealth (marriage payments) and lineage groups have been lost, the African view of marriage as a process occurring over many years has been retained. Without the sanction of bridewealth, family for a young couple begins in what have been called visiting relationships, which often become coresidential, and may finally issue in a formal marriage ceremony that is Christian. Like many African families, these creole families are matrifocal, centering on the mother's lineage, with strong traditions of women working outside of the home. There are, as a result, very high rates of labor force participation for Antiguan and Barbudan women.

Antigua and Barbuda Culture

Religion in Antigua and Barbuda

The population is predominantly Christian with the majority denomination being Anglican but there are also Methodists, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and others.

Social Conventions in Antigua and Barbuda

When it comes to greetings, relatives and good friends generally embrace whilst for acquaintances a handshake will do. Salutations such as 'good morning' and 'good evening' are seen as good manners, and failure to greet others in this way before engaging them in transactional matters or general conversation, may result in being seen as rude.

Friends tend to drop by unannounced, but an invitation is necessary for acquaintances or business associates. Although gifts will generally be well received, they are normally only given on celebratory occasions. Flowers are appropriate for dinner parties bring a bottle only when specifically requested.

In general, because of the warm weather, the dress code in most scenarios tends to be for informal dress, unless formal dress is specifically requested. It is not acceptable to wear revealing clothing or beachwear in towns or villages. Keep in mind that Antigua and Barbuda is a highly conservative country – public nudity (such as topless sunbathing outside of your hotel) will cause offence.

It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing and those found wearing any military-type clothing will be arrested. Smoking is accepted in most public places. Homosexual acts are illegal.

Modern Times

The population the islands is now about 100 thousand. Most of the people live on Antigua while Barbuda is sparsely populated.

Over 3 quarters of the population is Protestant in some form. The largest group is Anglican. A quarter are Seventh-Day Adventists or Pentecostal. There are also Roman Catholics (10%).

The populations of Antigua & Barbuda’s are ethnically African. There is also a combination of African, European, and American Indian people. Most of the people speak English as their first language, which is an official language.

The dominant religion in Antigua and Barbuda is Christianity (77%). Oter religious groups include Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, and Rastafari.


The first people that are known to have lived in Antigua are the SIBONEY or 'stone people' who were here in 1775 B.C.. They had stone and shell tools, and lived on whatever natural resources they could find. Traces of them are found at Jolly Beach, Deep Bay and North Sound.

The ARAWAKS date from the time of Christ, coming to these islands in paddled canoes from South America. They introduced agriculture into Antigua and Barbuda, bringing such crops as pineapples, corn, sweet potatoes, peppers, guava, tobacco and cotton. They mostly lived on the north and east sides of Antigua, where the reefs provided good fishing. Some of the places they lived are at Indian Creek, Marmora Bay, Half Moon Bay, Mill Reef, Green Island, Cloverleaf Bay, Long Bay, Coconut Hall, Galley Bay, Hawksbill and Curtain Bluff. They left Antigua about 1100 A.D., but some remained, who were then raided by the CARIBS, another Indian people based in Dominica. The Caribs named Antigua "Waladli", Barbuda "Wa'omoni" and Redonda "Ocanamanru".

Columbus named this island "Antigua" in 1493, as he sailed past. It is named for the Cathedral in Seville, Spain, "Santa Maria La Antigua". He is said to have prayed in this church before the Voyage. From then on, several explorers came to Antigua, as well as Buccaneers, who exploited the island for its timbers, medicinal and dye plants, and the cattle which they had introduced as a source of meat.


The English settlers arrived in 1632 from St. Kitts, under Edward Warner, their leader and Governor. They produced cash crops of tobacco, ginger, indigo and sugar.

The French landed at Deep Bay in 1666 and occupied Antigua for eight months until it was given back to the English in the 'Treaty of Breda'. The other islands changed hands many times, but Antigua remained English from that time on.

Sugar became the main crop from about 1674, when Christopher Codrington resettled at Betty's Hope Estate. He came from Barbados, 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 a huge increase of slaves, as sugar requires so much labour.

The first forts were built in 1672, one on Blake Island in Falmouth Harbour, and the other on Rat Island in St. John's Harbour. From then until 1815, forty forts were built around Antigua's casts to protect the valuable sugar industry.


Monk's Hill or Fort George was started in 1689. It was to defend Falmouth, which was then the main town of Antigua, with the only church, which also served as the Court House. Fort George was built to be a place of last refuge, in case of invasion by the French or the Caribs. The whole population of the Island, about 1200 people (half whites and half blacks), could be accommodated inside. Today there are still remains of very large cisterns in the complex.

By 1736, so many slaves had been brought in from Africa that their conditions were crowded and open to unrest. An uprising was planned by "Prince Klaas" (whose real name was Count) in which the whites would be massacred, but the plot was discovered and put down.

The Dockyard was started in 1725, to provide a base for a squadron of ships patrolling the West Indies and maintaining England's sea power. The present docks were formed by blasting away a small hill and spreading it on the surrounding reefs, a remarkable piece of engineering. Ships were brought alongside to be careened, which means pulling the vessel on its side so the bottom can be scrubbed and painted. Many ships and famous Admirals have been stationed at the dockyard, including Rodney, Hood and Nelson. It was given up by the Royal Navy in 1889, and is now administered by the National Parks Authority as an historic monument, yacht centre and tourist attraction.

Nelson was Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands from 1784 to 1787 on H.M.S. Boreas, based in the Dockyard. He was a young and zealous Officer, who tried to enforce the Navigation Acts, prohibiting trade with the newly formed United States of America. As most of the merchants in Antigua depended upon this trade, he was very unpopular here, and was unable to get a promotion for some time after.

Shirley Heights was named after Governor sir Thomas Shirley, who on November 26th, 1781 ordered fortifications to be built around English Harbour in order to further protect the Naval Dockyard. Some of the buildings here were also used to billet the soldiers coming and going in the Troopships calling at the Dockyard. The last soldiers stationed at Shirley Heights were the 67th Regiment, who left in 1854. There was also a Signal Station here at the Lookout, the highest point (487 ft.). Hoisted flags sent messages to the fort at Monk's Hill, which then relayed them to other forts and St. John's. Today the Historic sites commission is relying on visitor donations to help clean up and maintain the ruins, so they can be a pleasure and recreational area for all.


* 1807 Total abolition of the slave trade
* 1834 Emancipation of the slaves
* 1850's Decline of the sugar industry
* 1981 Independence.

Watch the video: Dont Go To Antigua u0026 Barbuda Until You Watch This Video! Ep15 (May 2022).