Barbados country profile
- 23 March 2016
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Political, economic and social stability have given it a relatively high standard of living.
Known for its beaches and cricket - its national sport - the former British colony has a dual heritage: English - evident in its stone-built Anglican churches and Saturday race meetings - and African, reflected in its music and dance.
Barbados was in the past heavily dependent on the export of sugar as its main revenue earner, but in recent decades the economy has diversified into tourism and finance. It also has offshore reserves of oil and natural gas.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general.
Prime minister: Freundel Stuart
Freundel Stuart first became prime minister when his predecessor, David Thompson, died in office in October 2010.
Mr Stuart, who had been deputy prime minister and attorney general, was appointed by Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands to head the government until the next elections.
These were held in February 2013 and were a close-run race: although polls had predicted a narrow win for the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
In the event Mr Stuart's Democratic Labour Party (DLP) scraped through to victory with 16 seats in the 30-member House of Assembly.
The BLP is considered to be conservative and pro-business, while the DLP is considered to be more attuned to the needs of working people.
The media are free of censorship and state control and often criticise the government.
All newspapers are privately-owned, and there is a mix of private and public radio stations.
Although the sole TV station is run by the government-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, it presents a wide range of political views. The CBC also operates MCTV, a multi-channel and pay-TV service.
Some key dates from the history of Barbados
1536 - Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos visits the island.
1627 - Captain Henry Powell lands a party of English settlers who establish a colony, which they then develop as a sugar plantation economy using slaves brought in from Africa.
1834 - Slavery abolished.
1937 - Outbreak of riots in response to poor economic conditions; British Royal Commission sent in to investigate conditions; Barbados Labour Party (BLP) founded by Grantley Adams.
1958-62 - Barbados a member of the British-sponsored Federation of the West Indies, of which Grantley Adams became the first prime minister.
1961 - Barbados granted full internal self-government with DLP leader Errol Barrow as premier.
1966 - Barbados becomes independent with Errol Barrow as prime minister.