The island of Barbuda is located north of Antigua, in the middle of the Leeward Islands, and is an integral part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda which gained it’s independence on November 1, 1981. It has a population of about 1,638, most of whom live in the town of Codrington. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe, and to the west and north west are Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and St. Martin. The island is mostly coral limestone with little topographical variation. The “highlands” area on the eastern side of the island has hills rising to 125 feet (38 meters), but the majority of the island is very flat, with many lagoons in the northwest corner.
The Ciboney were the first to inhabit the island of Barbuda in 2400 BC, but Arawak and Carib Indians populated the island when Christopher Columbus landed on his second voyage in 1493. Early settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English, who formed a colony in 1666. In 1685 Barbuda was leased to brothers Christopher and John Codrington, who had founded the town of Codrington. The Codrington family produced food on their land in Barbuda, and also transported slaves as labour for their sugarcane plantations on Antigua. There was more than one slave rebellion at Codrington during the 1740s, during which slaves rose against managers. All the slaves were freed in 1834.
The first map of Barbuda was made in the second half of the eighteenth century. At that time there were substantial buildings in the Highland area, a castle in Codrington, a fort at River, now known as the Martello Tower, and houses at Palmetto Point, Coco Point, and Castle Hill. The map shows eight catching pens for holding captured runaway slaves, indicating that this was a serious problem. There were several defensive cannon gun battery units around the island perimeter. There was a large plantation in the Meadow and Guava area and another large plantation in the Highlands area.
On November 1, 1981, the island gained its independence as part of Antigua and Barbuda, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. The Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird Sr became the first Prime Minister. In a 1989 election the Barbuda Independence Movement received too few votes to qualify for a seat in the national parliament.
The first stamps to bear the island’s name were a set of eleven Leewards Islands definitives overprinted with BARBUDA and released on 13 July 1922 (Scott #1-11). Stocks of these overprinted stamps were exhausted by October 1925 and the stamps of Antigua were used on Barbuda until 1968. On 19 November of that year, nine lithographed stamps showing a map of Barbuda on different colored backgrounds were released in values from ½ cent to 15 cents. Scott #12 is the low value of this set, printed in salmon, pink and red brown on unwatermarked paper, perforated 14.