Arawak Indians were the first to live on Barbados, but the Caribs who invaded from Venezuela drove the Arawaks away by 1200 A.D. before they dissipated to neighbouring islands ahead of English settlers arriving on the islands. Whilst the exact reasons for the Caribs leaving Bermuda is unknown, some claim that Spanish slavers that drove them away.
The islands are named after Juan de Bermúdez who originally discovered the islands- but then left, leaving them uninhabited until Sir George Somers crashed there in 1609 triggering a new name of the Somers Islands. They were included in the third charter of the Virginia Company and more colonists arrived.
The first true European settlement started in 1625 when Captain John Powell and his brother brought settlers and slaves to the island. They called the city Jamestown (at the location that is now Holetown) and within three short years the population had reached about 2,000.
These early settlers had cleared forestland to produce tobacco and cotton, but it was the sugarcane that really took hold, and by the 1640s was the main source of income for the colonies. These were some of the first large sugar plantations of the Caribbean.
The Virginia Company charter was revoked in 1684, and the importation of black slaves began shortly thereafter; Portuguese slaves from the Azores and Maidera islands were imported. Bermuda became a British Crown Colony, which it remained until 1968.
Emancipation of the slaves occurred in 1834, but most of the black slave population continued to work on the plantations for low wages as there were few other opportunities and practically no useful land that wasn’t already owned by Europeans. The slaves who did leave the large estates of their employers, often ended up in shanty towns.
During the U.S. Civil War in the mid-1800s, Confederate blockade runners used Bermuda and its islands as a base. The islands also received an influx of Virginians and other confederate sympathisers after the war. After the Boer War, the British government sent Boer prisoners to the islands and the islands have also served as a winter naval station for the British North Atlantic and British West Indian squadrons due to their strategic location just off the coast of North Carolina.
The people of Bermuda have made great progress both socially and economically, triggered by a depression in the 1930s which provided a catalyst for many reforms, including some which allowed blacks to take a hand in the political process.
One of Barbados' most influential political officials, Grantley Adams, came from this period of reform; he became the first premier of Barbados, eventually being knighted by the Queen of England. It was in 1961 when Barbados gained some self-government in 1961, and officially became a self-governing dependency of the British government in 1968.
Throughout World War II the sugar trade began to slump. Fortunately, the islands quickly started to grow its tourist trade, which has helped to drive them forward ever since- along with offshore banking and investments.
The United Bermuda Party dominated the political scene from 1968 to 1998, when the Progressive Labour Party took control; the Labour party have been in control ever since.
Because they were founded as a British colony, the islands of Bermuda have always been relatively peaceful; rarely joining in battle, but instead serving as a safe haven for U.S. and British ships deployed for battle in the Atlantic and the Caribbean.