Antigua and Barbuda: History

Life is a beach

Antigua and Barbuda History

Antigua was first settled by the Siboney Indians over 4500 years ago. Later settled by the pastoral Arawaks (Arawak meaning stone people) between 35 and 1100 AD who were displaced by the Caribs, an aggressive people. Antigua was sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named Antigua after a church in Spain, Santa Maria La Antigua, the patron Saint of Seville. European settlement did not occur for more than a century later largely due to the islands lack of fresh water and resistance from the Caribs. Finally in 1632 a group of Englishmen from the island of St. Kitts established a settlement. Sir Christopher Codrington arrived in 1684 and established a successful sugar cane industry. You can find remains of the old sugar mills, some fully restored such as Harmony Hall. By the end of the 18 century Antigua had become an important strategic port as well as a commercial colony referred to as the 'gateway to the Caribbean' controlling the major trade routes in the regions. Horatio Nelson arrived in 1784 to establish naval facilities at English Harbour, a ship repair and supply post to service the British Royal Navy. Antigua's naval and military history is much in evidence. English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard have been fully restored and are now popular visitor centres with hotels, bars, restaurants and marinas all part of the islands attractions. Antigua granted full emancipation to slaves after Britain abolished slavery in 1834. Prosperity suffered as the sugar cane industry declined until the development of tourism. In 1967 Antigua, with its dependencies of Barbuda and Redonda became one of the West Indies Associated States of Britain with its own constitution and self government. Antigua joined the Commonwealth and on the 1st of November 1981 it gained full independence. Parliament comprises the Senate with 17 seats and the House of Representatives with 17 seats and has a rolling 5 year term. Antigua's Chief of State is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor General, Louisse Lake-Tack. Head of Government is Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.