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The Political History of Barbados

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Barbados Government

Local government was in operation up until 1969. After which each parish had its own local government system called the Vestry. After the vestries were abolished, the island was divided into three areas; two districts served by councils and the third district, the City of Bridgetown was given a City Council and a Mayor. By 1967 the councils were abolished and local government affairs were administered by an Interim Commissioner for Local Government. Two years later the system ended, when the functions of the local government service were transferred to central government and statutory boards.

Barbados is now a parliamentary democracy. Executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is collectively responsible to the Parliament. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General as the member of the House of Assembly best able to command the support of the majority of the members. The Prime Minister usually selects a cabinet from his party members in the legislature.

The Governor General

Represents the British Monarch as Head of State - Appointed by Her Majesty and shall hold office during Her Majesty's pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty's representative in Barbados.

The Judiciary of Barbados

This is a branch of government free from executive interference and comprises the Magistrate Courts which are statutorily authorized, a High Court / Supreme Court which is constitutionally mandated and a Court of Appeal, each with four judges. The Chief Justice serves on both the high court and the court of appeal. The court of last resort is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, whose decisions are binding on all parties. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition. Supreme Court of Judicature (judges are appointed by the Service Commissions for the Judicial and Legal Service). Jurisprudence is based on English common law. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados became an independent state maintaining full diplomatic ties to the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30, 1966. The overall constitutional safeguards for nationals of Barbados include: freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association.


The History of Politics in Barbados

In 1625 Barbados was claimed by England. By 1627 Barbados was colonised in the name of Charles I by Governor Charles Wolferstone, as the representative of the Earl of Carlisle, after whom Carlisle Bay was named.

Prior to Barbados' Independence in 1966, the islands first body of representative would have been formed in 1639. It was chosen when the Governor appointed a Council comprising the main landowners to assist him in the government of the island. (16) land-owners were chosen to constitute the House of Burgesses, soon to become the House of Assembly. Candidates for the House of Burgesses were required to be property owners until the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act of 1950 gave to all persons aged 21 and over the right to vote without any income or property qualification and to contest elections also without any income or property qualification. The income and property qualifications were progressively lowered until the last modification in 1943. The island remained a British Colony until Independence. In fact it was not until the introduction of universal adult suffrage that the merchant classes ceased to dominate politics. The black population could not vote until 1831 and it was not until 1840 before one sat in the legislature.

In 1645 the island was divided into the present 11 parishes with each parish having (2) representatives for the House of Assembly. During 1652 Col. Thomas Modyford was elected as the first Speaker of the House of Assembly, who was then dominant in Barbados' politics. After this two Houses of Parliament sat separately, the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly. Eventually the meetings of the Council were held for several years at the official residence of the Governor.

Between the 1800s and the 1900s Barbados was the main Government for the British colonies of the Windward Islands, with the Governor of Barbados being the colonial head. Barbados later withdrew from the Windward Island union in 1885, leaving Grenada as the colonial head. It was later dissolved.

After Barbados parted ways with the Windward Islands, it tried to have Tobago join in its' political union to no avail. It was warded to Trinidad by the British Government.

Political awakening of the black population was noticeable in the 1920's and crystallised in the formation of the Democratic League by Charles Duncan O'Neal. But it was after the Civil disturbances in 1937 that the modern-type political party surfaced. This first party, the Barbados Labour Party, dominated political life until 1961 when it fell to the Democratic Labour Party, a splinter group which had broken away from the Barbados Labour Party in 1955.

In 1938 Grantley Adams a leader of one of the Trade Unions at that time, founded the Barbados Progressive League which later to became the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). He achieved significant social and constitutional reforms. Trade Unions were introduced in the 1930s' by descendants of emancipated slaves, who formed movements for political rights. Prior to this time merchants dominated politically. Adams later became the first Premier of Barbados in 1958.

Barbados was part of the (10) member West Indies Federation during 1958 until 1962 with Grantley Adams as Prime Minister of the Federation, when it failed because of nationalistic prejudices and limited legislative power. After failed attempts by Adams to form other Federations, Barbados went back to its Self-governing Colony status.

Errol Barrow who left the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to start his own Democratic Labour Party (DLP), replaced Grantley Adams as the Premier of Barbados, and lead Barbados to full Independence. Barbados successfully negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966, and finally finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 30th November 1966, making Errol Barrow the first Prime Minister of Barbados.

Since Independence Barbados' two main political parties have been the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), both centrist social democratic parties with roots in the British labor movement and no major ideological differences.

The BLP is considered more conservative than the DLP, with both parties strongly supporting private enterprise and regional integration. Since the 1960s, party differentiation has been mainly in style and rhetoric, but mainly in the personalities of the leaders.

The DLP under the leadership of Errol Barrow was the majority party from 1966 to 1976 and was returned to power in 1986. The BLP regained government during the General Elections of 1976 and 1981 for a second term, winning seventeen out of twenty-seven seats led by Mr. J.M.G.M. “Tom� Adams, son of Sir Grantley Adams. The BLP was in power from 1976 to 1986 with Tom Adams as leader until his sudden death in office on March 11, 1985.

After Adams's death, Mr. Harold Bernard "Bree" St. John, Deputy Prime Minister, took up the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party and the office of Prime Minister following the death of Mr. Adams on March 11, 1985.

In 1986 the Democratic Labour Party regained the government under the leadership of Mr. Errol Barrow. Prime Minister Barrow's death in 1987 saw his deputy, Mr. Erskine Sandiford becoming the country's fourth Prime Minister. Mr. Erskine Sandiford led the Democratic Labour Party to power in the 1991 elections. In a short space of twenty-six months Barbados had lost the two party leaders who had run the country since 1961.

Mr. Owen Arthur led the Barbados Labour Party to victory in the 1994 elections. The BLP returned to power in May 2003 elections with Owen Arthur at the helm, winning 23 seats and the DLP gaining seven seats with David Thompson at the helm.


Political Pressure Groups
Barbados Secondary Teachers' Union (BSTU)
Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT)
Congress of Trade Unions & Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). Includes (BWU, NUPW, BUT, BSTU)
Barbados Workers Union (BWU)
Clement Payne Labour Union National Union of Public Workers (NUPW)
People's Progressive Movement Worker's Party of Barbados

Political Parties
Barbados Labour Party (BLP) (PreviouslyBarbados Progressive League 1938 / BLP 1944)
Democratic Labour Party (DLP)
People's Empowerment Party (PEP)
National Democratic Party (NDP)
People's Democratic Congress (PDC)

List of Governor Generals
(After Independence)
 LivedIn Office
Sir John Montague Stow1911 - 1997 November 1966 - May 1967
Sir Arleigh Winston Scott1900 - 1976May 1967 - August 1976
Sir William Randolph Douglas (Acting)1921 - 2003August 1976 - Nov 1976
Sir Deighton Harcourt Lisle Ward1909 - 1984November 1976 - January 1984
Sir William Randolph Douglas (Acting)1921 - 2003January 1984 - February 1984
Sir Hugh Worrel Springer1913 - 1994February 1984 - June 1990
Dame Ruth Nita Barrow1916 - 1935June 1990 - December 1995
Sir Denys Ambrose Williams (Acting)1929 -December 1995 - June 1996
Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands1926 -June 1996 - October 2011
Elliott Fitxroy Belgrave (Acting) 1931 -  October 2011 - May 2012
Sandra Prunella Mason (Acting) 1949 - May 2012 - June 2012
Sir Elliott Fitxroy Belgrave 1931 - June 2012 -

List of Premiers of Barbados
 LivedIn Office
Grantley Herbert Adams (BLP) 1898 - 1971February 1954 - April 1958
Hugh Gordon Cummins (BLP) 1891 - 1970April 1958 - December 1961
Errol Barrow (DLP) 1920 - 1987December 1961 - November 1966

List of Prime Ministers of Barbados
 LivedIn Office
Errol Walton Barrow (DLP) 1920 - 1987November 1966 - September 1976
John Michael Geoffrey "Tom" Adams (BLP) 1931 - 1985September 1976 - March 1985
Harold Bernard St. John (BLP) 1931 - 2004March 1985 - May 1986
Errol Walton Barrow (DLP) 1920 - 1987May 1986 - June 1987
Lloyd Erskine Sandiford (DLP) 1937 - June 1987 - September 1994
Owen Seymore Arthur (BLP) 1949 -September 1994 - January 2008
David John Howard Thompson (DLP) 1961 - 2010January 2008 - October 2010
Freundel Jerome Stuart (DLP) 1951 - October 2010 -
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