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Bridgetown History, Barbados

The city of Bridgetown was established in 1628, when a group of British sailors led by the Earl of Carlisle set up a community by the Constitution River. However, the history of Bridgetown region can be traced back to around 350 B.C. when the first wave of nomadic groups arrived in the island; the people belonged to the Saladoid-Barrancoid group. The Arawak people arrived around 900 B.C. These two South American groups co-habited in the island for a pretty long time until they were driven away by the Caribs in the 13th century. The Caribs, too had migrated from South America; however, unlike the two earlier groups (that had their origins in the Orinoco basin) they belonged to the northern coastal area of South America (the locations of present-day cities like Caracas, Valencia, etc.)

History of Bridgetown – The Europeans and Slave Trade

Portuguese Conquistadors were among the first Europeans to arrive in the island in the mid 1500s. As they did elsewhere, the Portuguese Conquistadors did not settle in the island, instead they looted the land and the people, going to the extent of holding Caribs in custody and using them as slave-laborers on neighboring plantations. The remaining Caribs fled; so when the British first anchored close to the island in 1620, the island had already been deserted and they entered unopposed. The British first set up a sort-of-colony at the present-day Hole town site in 1625 and then at Bridgetown in 1628. Since Bridgetown was settled during what can be termed the ‘infancy’ of the development of the Barbados Island, the history of Bridgetown coincides with that of the island itself.

Unlike the Portuguese, the English imported slaves in huge numbers (initially only Africans, but, later on, Irish and Scots) to work in Barbados’ plantations. However, large-scale emigration of white slaves coupled with the immunity of the Africans to many tropical diseases (which took the lives of many white plantation slaves/workers) led to a situation when the blacks far outnumbered the white population and by the end of the 18th century, the island had a predominantly black population.

The 19th century was quite eventful. In 1807, the British Parliament passed an Act that abolished slave trade; however, this law did not have any force in this part of the British Empire and slavery continued to be practiced giving rise to the slave rebellion of 1816. This revolt failed and the inhuman practice continued until 1834, when slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire.

History of Bridgetown – As a City

The town of Bridgetown was made a city by the 1842 Royal Letters Patent and the 1958 Local Government Act also made provisions for separate administration for the city. Although local government was established, the system was soon replaced. Today, the governance of Bridgetown and its adjoining constituencies is in the hands of the Barbadian parliament.

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