Barbados was England’s most popular colony with an economy based on sugar and slavery being the first successful agricultural export colony.  Tobacco was its first commercial crop, but due to market conditions quick profits could not be accumulated.  The profits that were collected assisted the shift to sugar production happen in the 1650’s.  Original Barbadian settlers had no issues with the Spanish or French rivals; in fact, Amerindians were brought from Guiana to instruct the settlers on basic survival skills, such as knowledge of local foods.  The natives made an attempt to produce alternate crops like ginger and indigo but failed at doing so.  As international affairs devised to guarantee the survival and prosperity of Barbados, the Dutch of north-east Brazil were expelled.  Draxes and other Barbadian planters sought after those fleeing Brazil and there the transfer of the sugar industry happened.

Sugar was such a demand in Europe that land was almost completely deforested to create fields for growing sugar.  The weather was perfectly suitable for the growing of this new commodity.  Yet, a lot of labor was involved in producing it and as a result, sugar and the Western slave trade were closely related.  Thousands of white servants were brought from Britain eventually making it the most populated colony of England and as time progressed Barbados accumulated the largest population of whites of any other English colony in the Americas.  However, the cost of labor from the whites increased leading planters to turn to West Africa for their new labor force. Black slaves from the Gulf Coast region—with a heavy focus on Ghana and Nigeria—were brought over to work the fields of sugar cane.  The slave ships they traveled in were unsanitary and overcrowded to the point where the chance of surviving the journey was slim.  Due to the working conditions the mortality rate of slaves increased, causing there to be a constant need of fresh slaves to maintain the work (1).

The Sugar Revolution is an economic phenomenon that changed the history of Barbados in approximately twenty years.  When sugar arrived in Barbados in 1637, it was primarily used to make rum and as feedstock.  Tobacco was beginning to weaken as a cash crop encouraging the Barbadian planters to grow cane to use as sugar.  By 1644 the larger plantations began exporting sugar eventually making Barbados on of the most attractive British colonies.  The value of land increased as the wealthy capitalists started sugar plantations.  Many of the plantations acquired “grinding mills used to extract and process cane juice” (2).  Sugar then got exported to Britain to be refined.  There were over ten sugar factories by the 1800’s throughout Barbados where cane was harvested by hand and loaded to be transported to factories.  Since then, “Barbados’ sugar industry has since become fully mechanical with the latest in technology.”

Works Used:

(1) Watson, Karl. “Slavery and Economy in Barbados.” BBC News. BBC, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <;.

(2) “The History of the Barbados Sugar Cane Industry.” About Barbados : The Fun Barbados Travel Guide Has the Information on Hotels, Car Rentals, Tours and More That You’re Looking For. 1998. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.


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