Antigua and Barbuda Association of Central Florida

Cultural History

The Island of Antigua & Barbuda:

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact on Antigua's history of the arrival, one fateful day in 1684, of Sir Christopher Codrington. An enterprising man, Codrington had come to Antigua to find out if the island would support the sort of large-scale sugar cultivation that already flourished elsewhere in the Caribbean. His initial efforts proved to be quite successful, and over the next fifty years sugar cultivation on Antigua exploded. By the middle of the 18th century the island was dotted with more than 150 cane-processing windmills--each the focal point of a sizable plantation. Today almost 100 of these picturesque stone towers remain, although they now serve as houses, bars, restaurants and shops. At Betty's Hope, Cardington’s original sugar estate, visitors can see a fully-restored sugar mill.

Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labor in the sugarcane fields. However, Antigua's history of habitation extends as far back as two and a half millennia before Christ. The first settlements, dating from about 2400 B.C., were those of the Siboney (an Arawak word meaning "stone-people"), peripatetic Meso-Indians whose beautifully crafted shell and stone tools have been found at dozens of sites around the island. Long after the Siboney had moved on, Antigua was settled by the pastoral, agricultural Arawaks (35-1100 A.D.), who were then displaced by the Caribs--an aggressive people who ranged all over the Caribbean.

 The earliest European contact with the island was made by Christopher Columbus during his second Caribbean voyage (1493), who sighted the island in passing and named it after Santa Maria la Antigua, the miracle-working saint of Seville. European settlement, however, didn't occur for over a century, largely because of Antigua's dearth of fresh water and abundance of determined Carib resistance. Finally, in 1632, a group of Englishmen from St. Kitts established a successful settlement, and in 1684, with Codrington's arrival, the island entered the sugar era.

By the end of the eighteenth century Antigua had become an important strategic port as well as a valuable commercial colony. Known as the "gateway to the Caribbean," it was situated in a position that offered control over the major sailing routes to and from the region's rich island colonies. Most of the island's historical sites, from its many ruined fortifications to the impeccably-restored architecture of English Harbourtown, are reminders of colonial efforts to ensure its safety from invasion.

Horatio Nelson arrived in 1784 at the head of the Squadron of the Leeward Islands to develop the British naval facilities at English Harbor and to enforce stringent commercial shipping laws. The first of these two tasks resulted in construction of Nelson's Dockyard, one of Antigua's finest physical assets; the second resulted in a rather hostile attitude toward the young captain. Nelson spent almost all of his time in the cramped quarters of his ship, declaring the island to be a "vile place" and a "dreadful hole." Serving under Nelson at the time was the future King William IV, for whom the altogether more pleasant accommodation of Clarence House was built.

It was during William's reign, in 1834, that Britain abolished slavery in the empire. Alone among the British Caribbean colonies, Antigua instituted immediate full emancipation rather than a four-year 'apprenticeship,' or waiting period; today, Antigua's Carnival festivities commemorate the earliest abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean.

Emancipation actually improved the island's economy, but the sugar industry of the British islands was already beginning to wane. Until the development of tourism in the past few decades, Antiguans struggled for prosperity. The rise of a strong labor movement in the 1940s, under the leadership of V.C. Bird,  provided the impetus for independence. In 1967, with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redoda as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 it achieved full independent status. V.C. Bird is now deceased; his son, Lester B. Bird, was elected to succeed him as prime minister.


Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is the gem of the Eastern Caribbean.

We are the gateway to the world. The twin island state is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the leeward island chain also known as the Lesser Antilles. Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands. Being a twin Island state, our little sister is located 26 mile to our north. Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy with a British-style parliamentary system of government. The reigning British monarch is represented in Antigua by an appointed Governor General as the head of state. The government has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.


Barbuda is part of the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Charted by Columbus in 1493, the island is 42km (26 miles) north of Antigua. Twenty-four kilometers (15 miles) -long by 8km (5 miles) -wide, it has a population of only 1,200.

The island's has 27km (17 miles) of pink- and white-sand beaches. Barrier reefs protect the island and keep most of the waters tranquil. Beaches on the southwestern shore stretch uninterrupted for 16km (10 miles). Fronting the Atlantic, the beaches on the island's eastern shore are somewhat rougher, but suitable for beachcombing and shell-collecting. The temperature seldom falls below an average of 75F (24C).

Barbuda is inhabited by deer, guinea fowl, pigeons, and wild pigs. In addition Barbuda is home to the frigate bird sanctuary. Visitors to the island can see the Frigate birds magnificently, sitting on their eggs in the mangrove bushes, which stretch for miles in a long lagoon accessible only by small motorboat. The island attracts about 150 other species of birds, including pelicans, herons, and tropical mockingbirds.

Our Government

Our Government is a constitutional Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labor in the sugarcane fields. However, Antigua's history of habitation extends as far back as two and a half millennia before Christ.

Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda form the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, within the Commonwealth of Nations. Redonda is an uninhabited rocky islet of less than a square mile, located 32km (20 miles) southwest of Antigua.

Antigua (an-TEE-gah) is an independent nation, but it is still British in many of its traditions. Economically, it has transformed itself from a poverty-stricken island of sugar plantations to a modern-day vacation haven. The landscape of rolling, rustic Antigua is dotted with stone towers that were once sugar mills.


When you visit

When you visit our Island, be sure to enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches. It should not take you long to decide on the beach of your choice. We have a total of three hundred and sixty-five beaches; one for each day of the year.

If you have never been to our Island we would like to welcome you. Enjoy the lovely sunshine, beautiful scenery and the friendly people. Enjoy your trip and we look forward to your return some time in the future. For those of our natives who are returning home for a visit, have fun in Paradise. What took you so long to return! Enjoy the climate! Let us hear of your experience and share the moments by sending us photos from your trip!


The Island of Barbuda

Barbuda is one of those very few islands in the Caribbean that remains--and probably will remain for sometime--so undeveloped as to seem positively deserted at times. With the exception of the guests of the island's small number of accommodations, the population seems largely to consist of the graceful Fregata magnificent, or frigate bird. As the birds possess a marked preference for the northwest lagoon, Barbuda's seemingly endless white and pink sand beaches are left to the peaceful wanderings of those lucky enough to sojourn here.

Activities on Barbuda are appropriately relaxed, including beachcombing (on the northeastern Atlantic coast), fishing and hunting and, at the island's resorts, golf, tennis, snorkeling, diving, or simply soaking up the sun and the calm. Points of interest include the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, the truly noteworthy pink and white sand beaches, and an abundance of shipwrecks and beautiful reefs. Barbuda can be reached easily from Antigua, either by air (a 20-minute flight, twice daily) or by boat (in three hours). The island is home to the luxurious K-Club, Coco Point Lodge and Hotel Palmetto resorts, as well as to a number of other hotels and comfortable guest houses.

Barbuda's history has been intimately tied to that of Antigua for centuries. The first early attempts to settle Barbuda (by both the British and French) were failures, and it wasn't until 1666 that the British established a colony strong enough to survive the ravages of both nature and the Caribs. In 1680, four years before he began cultivating sugar on Antigua, Christopher Codrington was granted (with his brother John) a lease to land in Barbuda. With subsequent leases that granted them additional rights to the substantial wreckage along Barbuda's reefs, they became the island's preeminent family. For much of the eighteenth century the Codrington land on Barbuda was used to produce food and to supply additional slave labor for the Codington sugar plantations on Antigua, and so the Barbuda's fortunes rose and fell with those of its larger neighbor. Testament to the influence of the Codringtons remains today, both in the island's place names and in its architectural remains. On Barbuda's highest point (124 feet) are the ruins of the Codrington estate, Highland House, and on the island's south coast still sits the 56-foot high Martello castle and tower, a fortress that was used both for defense and as a vantage from which to spot valuable shipwrecks on the outlying reefs.

Barbuda's Frigate Bird Sanctuary is located in the island's northwestern lagoon and is accessible only by boat. The sanctuary contains over 170 species of birds and is home to over 5,000 frigate birds. Fregata magnificence, the most aerial of water birds, possesses the largest wingspan (four to five feet) in proportion to its body size of any bird in the world. It is also known as the man o' war bird, and the comparison to warships is a particularly apt one--with its superior size and flight capabilities, the frigate bird harasses less agile flyers like pelicans, egrets, and cormorants until they drop their catch. The male frigate is marked by its red throat pouch, which it can inflates as part of its courtship behavior and as a defensive display. Courting takes place in the fall, and chicks hatch late in the year.

Betty's Hope was the first large sugar plantation on    Antigua, and its success led to the island's rapid development of large-scale sugar production. Although the only surviving structures are two stone sugar mills and the remains of the still house, the site's importance in Antiguan History has prompted the government to begin developing it as an open air museum. About a hundred stone windmill towers dot the Antiguan landscape, and the two restored examples at Betty's Hope provide a dramatic sense of the way these mills must have dominated the island during the hundreds of years that sugar production was the dominant industry. Betty's Hope was built by Sir Christopher Codrington, who came to Antigua in 1674 from Barbados, and was named for his daughter.

Antigua (pronounced An-tee'ga) and Barbuda are located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, roughly 17 degrees north of the equator. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe and to the north and west are Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Bart’s, and St. Martin.


Antigua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (1319 ft.), located in the southwestern corner of the island. Barbuda, a flat coral island with an area of only 68 square miles, lies approximately 30 miles due north. The nation also includes the tiny (0.6 square mile) uninhabited island of Redonda, now a nature preserve. The current population for the nation is approximately 68,000 and its capital is St. John's on Antigua.


Temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September. Low humidity year-round.



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