The most important settlers on Antigua and Barbuda were the Arawak Indians, who arrived in the first century AD. Many prehistoric sites have been identified and excavated. Europeans had no knowledge of the island’s existence until Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the West Indies in 1493.
Without landing, Columbus named the island Santa Maria de la Antigua. Barbuda, whose association with Antigua dates back to the time of Codrington (the first settler on Antigua, who arrived in 1684), was annexed to the territory in 1860. The small island of Redonda became part of Antigua in 1872.
During the 20th century, economic problems contributed to the growth of an independence movement and internal autonomy was achieved in February 1967, when Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda became an Associated State.
In 1981, the country became fully independent as Antigua and Barbuda. Except for a brief spell in opposition during the 1970s, Vere C Bird and his Antiguan Labour Party (ALP) held power continuously from 1946 until 1994. He was then replaced by his son, Lester, after the ALP won the March 1994 poll.
The 2004 elections saw an historic landslide victory for Baldwin Spencer’s United Progressive Party (UPP), which ended the Bird family’s domination of Antiguan politics.
The UPP government has since passed legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act and Integrity in Public Life Act, in an effort to distance itself from the allegedly corrupt practices of the previous government.