History, Language & Culture Antigua and Barbuda

History, Language & Culture Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua was first settled by archaic age hunter-gatherer Amerindians called the Ciboney. Carbon dating has established the earliest settlements started around 3100 BC.They were succeeded by the ceramic age pre-Columbian Arawak-speaking Saladoid people who migrated from the lower Orinoco River.[citation needed] They introduced agriculture, raising, among other crops, the famous Antigua black pineapple (Ananas comosus), corn, sweet potatoes, chiles, guava, tobacco, and cotton. Later on the more bellicose Caribs also settled the island, possibly by force.


European arrival and settlement

Christopher Columbus was the first European to sight the islands in 1493.The Spanish did not colonise Antigua until after a combination of European and African diseases, malnutrition, and slavery eventually extirpated most of the native population; smallpox was probably the greatest killer.

The English settled on Antigua in 1632; Christopher Codrington settled on Barbuda in 1685.Tobacco and then sugar was grown, worked by a large population of slaves from West Africa who soon came to vastly outnumber the European settlers.


Colonial era

The English maintained control of the islands, repulsing an attempted French attack in 1666. The brutal conditions endured by the slaves led to revolts in 1701 and 1729 and a planned revolt in 1736, the latter led by Prince Klaas, though it was discovered before it began and the ringleaders were executed. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833, affecting the economy.This was exacerbated by natural disasters such as the 1843 earthquake and the 1847 hurricane. Mining occurred on the isle of Redonda, however this ceased in 1929 and the island has since remained uninhabited.


Part of the Leeward Islands colony, Antigua and Barbuda became part of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. Antigua and Barbuda subsequently became an associated state of the United Kingdom with full internal autonomy on 27 February 1967.The 1970s were dominated by discussions as to the islands' future and the rivalry between Vere Bird of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) (Premier from 1967 to 1971 and 1976 to 1981) and the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) of George Walter (Premier 1971–1976). Eventually Antigua and Barbuda gained full independence on 1 November 1981. Vere Bird became Prime Minister of the new country. The country opted to remain within the Commonwealth, retaining Queen Elizabeth as head of state, with the last Governor, Sir Wilfred Jacobs, as Governor-General.


Independence era

The first two decades of Antigua's independence were dominated politically by the Bird family and the ALP, with Vere Bird ruling from 1981 to 1994, followed by his son Lester Bird from 1994 to 2004. Though providing a degree of political stability, and boosting tourism to the country, the Bird governments were frequently accused of corruption, cronyism and financial malfeasance. Vere Bird Jr., the elder son, was forced to leave the cabinet in 1990 following a scandal in which he was accused of smuggling Israeli weapons to Colombian drug-traffickers. Another son, Ivor Bird, was convicted of selling cocaine in 1995.


In 1995 Hurricane Luis caused severe damage on Barbuda.

The ALP's dominance of Antiguan politics ended with the 2004 Antiguan general election, which was won by Baldwin Spencer's United Progressive Party (UPP). However the UPP lost the 2014 Antiguan general election, with the ALP returning to power under Gaston Browne.

Most of Barbuda was devastated in early September 2017 by Hurricane Irma, which brought winds with speeds reaching 295 km/h (185 mph). The storm damaged or destroyed 95% of the island's buildings and infrastructure, leaving Barbuda "barely habitable" according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Nearly everyone on the island was evacuated to Antigua. Amidst the following rebuilding efforts on Barbuda that were estimated to cost at least $100 million,the government announced plans to revoke a century old law of communal land ownership by allowing residents to buy land; a move that has been criticised as promoting "disaster capitalism".


Official languages: English


Most Antigua and Barbuda residents speak both English and Antiguan Creole, which is heavily influenced by a number of West African languages.

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