The Careenage, Bridgetown, Barbados. Percy William Justyne, c.1848. Public Domain 

Barbados, the easternmost island in the Caribbean, has a rich history marked by colonization, sugar cane agriculture, and a journey to independence. The island was originally inhabited by the Amerindians, including the Arawaks and later the Caribs, who named it "Ichirouganaim." Portuguese explorers sighted the island in 1536, naming it "Los Barbados" due to the bearded fig trees found there.

The Portuguese laid claim to the island until the mid-16th century. The Spanish also visited the island and raided it for slaves, depopulating the indigenous people. Because of this, combined with the island's remoteness and small size, Europeans largely avoided it until the mid-17th century when the English arrived.

In 1627, English settlers established a colony that initially relied on tobacco and cotton. However, the introduction of sugar cane in the mid-17th century transformed Barbados. This new industry brought immense wealth to the colony but also led to the establishment of a brutal system of African slavery. Enslaved Africans were forced to work on plantations under harsh conditions, and their labor was crucial to the island's prosperity.

The island's strategic location and economic importance made it a key asset for the British Empire. Bridgetown, the capital, became a major port for transatlantic trade. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Barbados was one of the most prosperous colonies in the Caribbean, known as "Little England" due to its cultural and political alignment with Britain.

The abolition of slavery in 1834 was a significant turning point. Although emancipation granted freedom to the enslaved population, economic and social inequalities persisted. Former slaves continued to work on plantations, often under unfair conditions.

Barbados moved towards greater self-governance in the 20th century. The labor movement gained momentum, and political reforms gradually unfolded. Universal suffrage was achieved in 1951, and the island became an independent nation within the Commonwealth on November 30, 1966.

In recent decades, Barbados has developed a diverse economy based on tourism, manufacturing, and offshore finance. In November 2021, Barbados transitioned from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, replacing the British monarch with a locally elected president as the head of state. This move marked a significant step in its post-colonial journey, reflecting a commitment to fully embrace its identity and sovereignty.

Egyptology and Howard Carter 

Bust of Queen Nefertiti 18th Dynasty, ca. 1351–1334 BC. Neues Museum, Berlin

Howard Carter Opens King Tutankhamun’s Sarcophagus, Luxor, Egypt. 1925. WikiCommons/NewYorkTimes 

In the late 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte began his invasion of Egypt and Syria, marking the onset of what is known today as modern Egyptology. Scholars who accompanied the French invasions discovered vast amounts of ancient Egyptian materials, one of the most significant being the Rosetta Stone. This artifact enabled scholars to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics, or pictorial texts. Subsequently, scholars began publishing volumes of texts that became available to Europeans, sparking further curiosity about the ancient civilization. Egyptology evolved into a more formal study encompassing ancient Egyptian history, language, art, religion, architecture, and literature, becoming a multidisciplinary area of study focused on a single topic.

One of the most well-known Egyptologists of the early 20th century was British archaeologist Howard Carter. Raised in a small market town in Norfolk, near Didlington Hall, which housed a large collection of Egyptian antiques owned by the Amherst family, Carter's interest in Egypt was sparked by this collection. In 1891, at the age of 17, having already shown considerable artistic talent, Carter was hired as an archaeological draftsman for a trip to Egypt.

Over the next several years, Howard Carter worked for different archaeologists, gaining experience and establishing himself as a successful excavator. In 1914, with financial backing from Lord Carnarvon, Carter commenced an excavation in the Valley of the Kings in search of previously missed artifacts, particularly the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Work halted until 1917 due to World War I, but discoveries remained sparse, and there was still no sign of Tutankhamun. In 1922, Carter was informed that Carnarvon would withdraw financial support if nothing was found after one more season of work.

With renewed determination, Carter returned to an area in the Valley of the Kings where his team had previously investigated and started re-evaluating a grouping of huts. Here, a boy working for the team as a water carrier was playing in the dirt and hit upon a rock, which turned out to be the top stair of a staircase. Once they uncovered the staircase, they discovered it led to a door stamped with seals and hieroglyphics. Carter ordered the stairs to be covered back up until Carnarvon could join them two and a half weeks later.

On November 24, 1922, the stairway was cleared and the door fully revealed. On November 26, the door was breached, and the team peered into the chamber with a candle. The next day, on November 27, the room was officially inspected with an Egyptian official, revealing the tomb with four chambers filled with burial artifacts, jewelry, gold, and statues. It took nearly three months for the archaeologists to catalog and document their work to reach the sealed door behind which they found Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus. They opened it on February 16, 1923. Carter remained in Egypt until the excavation was completed in 1932. This discovery had a huge impact on Egyptology, as it was the most intact tomb discovered to date, and the vast array of artifacts found significantly enriched the field of study.

Learn the Words, People, and Expressions:  

Knickerbockers: short, loose trousers gathered at or just below the knees 

Progressive Woman: women in the Progressive Era who advocated for reform on things such as women’s suffrage, an end to child labor, and workplace safety, etc. 

Collywobbles: anxiety, nervousness 

Mestizo: a term used in Latin America to describe someone of mixed ancestry with European and an indigenous background

Sir Flinders Petrie: British archaeologist and Egyptologist who was a pioneer in developing systemic methods in excavation and preservation

J.P. Morgan: American financier, investment banker, and industrialist 

National Geographic Magazine: a monthly periodical produced by the National Geographic Society featuring scholarly articles about geography, history, nature, science, and world culture. They started including photographs in 1905. 

Flying Fish: or flying cod, can make self-propelled leaps out of the water and glide above the water’s surface for considerable distances in order to escape predators. The flying fish is one of the national symbols of Barbados.