Antigua and Barbuda officially became independent on November 1, 1981, ending more than 350 years of British rule. This module provides an overview of the important events that took place on the road to independence from Antigua and Barbuda.
The path to freedom
The first inhabitants were the Sibonians, who may date as far back as 2400 BC. The Aravaks later settled around the first century AD.
Arrived later in the Caribbean, but abandoned Antigua around the 16th century due to freshwater scarcity. Christopher Columbus visited the large island in 1493 and named it after the church of Seoul, Santa Maria de la Antigua. After unsuccessful colonial efforts by the Spanish and French, Antigua was colonized by Sir Thomas Warner in 1632, while Sir Christopher Codrington settled in Barbuda. Antigua formally became a British colony in 1667. Britain annexed Barbuda in 1628.
In 1680, Charles II ceded the island to the Codrington family, who occupied it until 1860, the year it was annexed to Antigua. As the only Caribbean island under British rule to have a good port, Antigua was a warehouse for the British West Indies, used by the Royal Navy from 1725 to 1854.
Sugar made tobacco the main crop and imported enslaved Africans to work on highly lucrative properties, most of which had their own names (Vernon, Gunthrops, Doyers, Perry, Cochrane and Winthrop). Africans were later brought in to work on the estate to provide slave labor. A small uprising broke out in 1728 and in 1736, a major slave rebellion was claimed.
The three ring leaders – Court, Tomboy and Hercules – were “broken” at the wheel and some 80 others were brutally hanged. After the abolition of the slave trade (1807), Coderington set up a large ‘slave farm’ in Barbuda, where children were provided with the region’s unpaid labor force, until on August 1, 1834, slaves were brought to Antigua. Not released. Providing affordable labor to Chinese state owners in the twentieth century. Many villages were established when free slaves moved away from their former masters’ residences, including Freetown and Liberta (or Liberty Village).