slavery was abolished in 1834, but the "plantation economy"
has remained alive until today. The major property owners of
European origin dominated political life well into the 20th
Inspired by the trade unions, in 1938, the initiative was
taken to form the Barbados Workers' Party, led by Grantley
Adams. Political rights were gradually expanded. After
introducing the universal suffrage in 1951, Adams was
elected prime minister of the local government.
Barbados became autonomous in 1961 and gained full
independence in 1966, as a member of the Commonwealth.
Elected Prime Minister Errol W. Barrow, known as the Father
of Independence Policy, was the first to hold this post.
Unlike the other Caribbean island communities, however,
Barbados has never been totally separated from the
Since 1966, Errol Barrow's Labor Party Government has
helped found the Caribbean Free Trade Organization CARIFTA,
which in 1973 was transformed into CARICOM, with the
participation of 12 of the region's island states. Barrow
made political approximations to the Organization of
Alliance Free States.
Free education and new laws did not change Barrow's
hesitant attitude towards the owners of the sugar
refineries. The rise in unemployment reduced support and
later led to electoral defeat.
In 1970, Barbados was admitted to the International
Monetary Fund (IMF).
In 1976, the Labor Party achieved 17 of Parliament's 24
seats. Tom Adams, the son of Grantley Adams, was elected
prime minister and promised to crack down on corruption. The
Labor Party characterized itself as a Social Democratic
Party, and in November 1978 joined the Socialist
International. But the government defended the interests of
foreign, multinational corporations in the sugar industry
and tourism while trying to attract additional foreign
Adams asked Washington to close its naval base in St.
Lucia, which happened in 1979. Adams was re-elected and
strengthened ties with Washington. Barbados backed the North
American invasion of Grenada in 83.
With a view to attracting foreign investment to the
country, the government introduced new tax rules and
liberalized ship registration laws. As a result of a
US-Barbados agreement signed in 1986, 650 offshore companies
could be registered; yet unemployment and inflation
continued to rise.