Barbados is one of the more populous and prosperous Caribbean islands. Political, economic and social stability have given it a relatively high standard of living.
Known for its beaches and cricket - its national sport - the former British colony has a dual heritage: English - evident in its stone-built Anglican churches and Saturday race meetings - and African, reflected in its music and dance.
Barbados was in the past heavily dependent on the export of sugar as its main revenue earner, but in recent decades the economy has diversified into tourism and finance. It also has offshore reserves of oil and natural gas.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general.
Prime minister: Mia Mottley
Mia Mottley was elected as the country's first female prime minister in May 2018.
Her victory returned the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to power for the first time in a decade, having inflicted a crushing defeat on the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) by winning all the seats in parliament.
The result means the Barbadian House of Assembly is without an official opposition.
The media are free of censorship and state control.
All newspapers are privately-owned, and there is a mix of private and public radio stations.
The sole TV station is run by the government-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. It carries a wide range of political views.
Some key dates from the history of Barbados
1536 - Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos visits the island.
1627 - Captain Henry Powell lands a party of English settlers who establish a colony, which they then develop as a sugar plantation economy using slaves brought in from Africa.
1834 - Slavery abolished.
1937 - Outbreak of riots in response to poor economic conditions; British Royal Commission sent in to investigate conditions; Barbados Labour Party (BLP) founded by Grantley Adams.
1958-62 - Barbados a member of the British-sponsored Federation of the West Indies, of which Grantley Adams became the first prime minister.
1961 - Barbados granted full internal self-government with DLP leader Errol Barrow as premier.
1966 - Barbados becomes independent with Errol Barrow as prime minister.