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Island nation, member of the Commonwealth of Nations, in the Windward Island s of the West Indies, E of St. Vincent Island . Bridgetown, founded in 1628, is the capital. It was probably discovered by the Portuguese, who named it Los Barbados because of the bearded fig trees they found here. In 1518 the Spanish began coming to the island to seize slaves from among the Arawak Indians to take to Hispaniola. By the mid-16th century the Indian population had about disappeared. The island was claimed for England in 1605 and settled in 1627 by English colonists, who brought black slaves. The En glish Crown took over the colony in 1663. From that time into the 18th century the island prospered as a sugar producer. Slavery was abolished in 1834. From 1833 to 1885 Barbados was the British administrative center for the Windward Island s, but in the latter year became a separate colony. During 1958–62 it was part of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies and in 1966 became independent, with a parliamentary from of government. In 2002, Barbados reformed its banking system. There are no rivers on Barbados, and water is secured by pumping from underground caverns. The population is approximately 90 percent of black African descent. Sugar is the most important export, along with rum and molasses. Barbados is popular as a resort, and tourism is the largest provider of foreign exchange.


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