Antigua and Barbuda History

Antigua and Barbuda History

In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Antigua on his second trip, who named it after a church in Seville (Santa Mar¨ªa de la Antigua). In the first half of the 17th century, permanent settlement by Europeans began, especially British people settled on the island. Up to this point, the native population (Caribbean, which had driven out the Aruak Indians since 1100) had been abducted by Spanish sailors as working slaves. The British brought black African slaves to the island to work on the emerging sugar cane and tobacco plantations.

Due to the location of the island and the natural ports, Antigua has been of great strategic importance for centuries and was an important base for the English during various wars. After the abolition of slavery in 1834, many of the blacks continued to work on the plantations due to a lack of alternatives for extremely low wages. The island of Barbuda was privately owned until 1860, only then did it fall to the British crown. From 1871 to 1956 Antigua, Barbuda and the small uninhabited island of Redonda belonged to the British colony of the Leeward Islands.

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In the 20th century, the process of decolonization began slowly on Antigua as well. The Antigua Trades and Labor Union was formed in 1939 and one of the leading figures here was the later long-time Prime Minister Vere C. Bird. A first step towards independence was membership in the West Indies Federation (1958-62). In 1960 the islands received limited internal autonomy, the conservative Antigua Labor Party (ALP) won the parliamentary elections and Vere C. Bird became the first head of government. In 1967 the islands were given the status of a state associated with Great Britain and thus full internal autonomy. According to AbbreviationFinder, the country’s official capital became Saint John’s in Antigua. A Labor party splinter, the Progressive Labor Party (PLM), intensified the demand for full state independence. In November 1981, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda became independent under the Commonwealth. The British royal family remained the head of state of the parliamentary monarchy. The country’s prime minister and thus head of government was again Vere C. Bird. In the same year the state was admitted to the United Nations. In the early 1990s, a popular movement in Barbuda called for the detachment of the island from Antigua and the establishment of a sovereign state (around 2,000 people live in Barbuda). The reason for this was dissatisfaction with the central government in Antigua, which was said to be corruption and involvement in drug and arms deals. Even after Vere C. Bird resigned as prime minister in 1994 at the age of 84, the country’s political affairs remained in the hands of the Bird family:

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The United Progressive Party (UPP) came to power in 2004, with Baldwin Spencer as its prime minister and foreign minister. Both government officials and resident banks have been repeatedly accused of drug and weapon smuggling. In the parliamentary elections in June 2014, the ALP took over the leadership of the country with Gaston Browne as Prime Minister.

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