History of Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is regarded as a three island nation. Three islands of the Caribbean Sea – Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda, make up the nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Columbus landed in Antigua in 1493 AD in the course of his second voyage to West Indies but that doesn’t mean human beings were not present in Antigua before that. Earliest settlements in Antigua date back to 2900 BC. First settlers in Antigua were pre-agricultural Amerindians called ‘Archaic people’. Archaic people were succeeded by ceramic using agriculturist people called Saladoid. Saladoid people had come from Venezuela through island chain. Arawakan speakers replaced them in 1200 AD. In 1500 AD island Caribs settled in Antigua.

In 1493 Columbus visited Antigua and named it after church of Santa Maria de la Antigua located in Spain. Antigua became a colony of English settlers in 1632 AD. In 1678 Barbuda was also colonized. Antigua joined West Indies Federation in 1958 after Leewards island colony of which Antigua was a part, was defederated in 1956. When West Indies Federation got dissolved in 1962 Antigua tried to facilitate forming of alternative federation. Under West Indies act of 1967 Antigua became UK’s associate state. Now Antigua became completely self-governed in all internal affairs and UK retained the onus of defense and external affairs.

Independence movement

An independence movement had developed in Antigua as early as 1970 although Antigua and Barbuda finally got independence in 1981. Independence movement gained pace in the stewardship of Prime Minister George Walter. Walter wanted complete independence instead of British offered independence within federation of islands. Walter lost to Vere Bird in 1976 elections. Bird was favored regional integration. Autonomy talks got complicated as Barbuda feeling stifled economically by larger island Antigua wanted to secede. In 1978 Antigua reversed its position and demanded complete independence. In 1981, Antigua and Barbuda got independence finally and Vere Bird became the first PM. Antigua labour party (ALP) of Bird won elections in 1984 and 1989 overwhelmingly.

Post-independence political landscape

Political landscape of Antigua and Barbuda was more or less stable after independence but corruption allegations cropped up. Nation earned the reputation of being a tax haven. Till 1994 Bird remained in office and after his retirement in that year his son Lester became prime minister. He served for 10 years from 1994-2004. Baldwin Spencer of United progressive party became prime minister after Lester and remained PM for 10 years. ALP regained power in 2014 and retained it after early elections in 2018.

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