Originally settled by the Arawak Indians, Western civilization credits a Portuguese explorer for the discovery of the island in 1536. It was the Portuguese who named the island "Los Barbados" after the ficus tree that grew there in great abundance. The British later settled Barbados in 1627. The current population is descended from African slaves who were brought to the country by the British to work on the sugar plantations.
Barbados is a democratic, self-governing country, functioning through a governor-general appointed by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and a prime minister who is usually the leader of the majority party in the House of Assembly. The prime minister presides over a cabinet selected from elected members in the House of Assembly. The bicameral legislature consists of the House of Assembly, with 28 elected members, and the Senate, with 21 members selected by the governor-general.
Barbados boasts having the third-oldest parliament in the world. However, universal adult suffrage was not introduced until 1951, 15 years before Barbados achieved its independence in 1966. Barbados has three political parties. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) have traditionally monopolized the political life of the country. The third party is the National Democratic Party (NDP), a faction which broke away from the DLP in 1989.