Barbados (i/bɑrˈbeɪdɒs/ or /bɑrˈbeɪdoʊs/) is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is 34 kilometres (21 mi) in length and up to 23 kilometres (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 431 square kilometres (166 sq mi). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about 168 kilometres (104 mi) east of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and 400 kilometres (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt.
Barbados was initially visited by the Spanish around the late 1400s to early 1500s and first appears on a Spanish map from 1511. The Spanish explorers may have plundered the island of whatever native peoples resided therein to become slaves. The Portuguese visited in 1536, but they too left it unclaimed, with their only remnants being an introduction of wild hogs for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. The first English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados in 1624. They took possession of it in the name of the British king James I. Two years later in 1627 the first permanent settlers arrived from England and it became an English and later British colony.
Barbados has an estimated population of 284,000 people, with around 80,000 living in or around Bridgetown, the largest city and the country's capital. In 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Barbados is one of the Caribbean's leading tourist destinations and is one of the most developed islands in the region, with an HDI number of 0.788. In 2011 Barbados ranked 2nd in The Americas (16th globally) on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index
Some evidence exists that Barbados may not have been settled in the second millennium BC, but this is limited to fragments of conch lip adzes found in association with shells radiocarbon dated to c.1630 BC. Fully documented Amerindian settlement dates to between about 350 to 650 AD, by a group known as the Saladoid-Barrancoid, who arrived from mainland South America. A second wave of migrants appeared around the year 800 (the Spanish referred to these people as "Arawaks") and a third in the mid-13th century (called "Caribs" by the Spanish). This last group was more politically organised and came to rule over the others. Frequent slave-raiding missions by the Spanish Empire in the early 16th century led to a massive decline in the Amerindian population of Barbados so that by 1541 a Spanish writer could claim they were uninhabited. The Amerindians were either captured for use as slaves by the Spanish or fled to other, more easily defensible mountainous islands nearby.James Hay (Lord Carlisle), made Lord Proprietor of Barbadoes by King Charles I on 2 July 1627.
From about 1600 the English, French and Dutch began to find colonies in the North American mainland and the smaller islands of the West Indies. Although Spanish and Portuguese sailors likely had visited Barbados, the Commonwealth of England was the first Europeans to establish a lasting settlement in Barbados from 1627. England is commonly attributed as making their initial claim of Barbados in 1625, though reportedly an earlier claim may have been made in 1620. Nonetheless, by 1625 Barbados was claimed in the name of King James I of England. Despite earlier settlements by England in The Americas, (1607:Jamestown, 1609:Bermuda, and 1620:Plymouth Colony, and closer to Barbadoes the Leeward Islands were claimed by the English at about the same time as Barbados: 1623: St Kitts, 1628: Nevis, 1632: Montserrat, 1632: Antigua.), Barbados quickly grew to became the third major English settlement in the Americas due to its prime eastern location.