The first inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were native American tribes from South America. The Arawaks were peaceful people who farmed the land. The Caribs, who came after them, were more aggressive. They fought other tribes and ate their enemies. Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492. He thought the islands were part of the Indies (India) and he called the people Indians. After Columbus, Spain colonised some of the islands. Soon England, Holland and France had colonies too. Most of the native Americans died from European diseases or were killed by the colonists. In the seventeenth century, sugar plantations were established in the Caribbean. A lot of workers were needed, so the plantation owners brought slaves from West Africa. The slaves spent long hours in the hot sun — planting, weeding and cutting the sugar cane. Their lives were terrible and there were many revolts. In 1833, slavery was abolished in the British colonies. Most of the freed slaves did not want to go on working on the plantations. They moved to their own tiny plots of land. The plantation owners needed new workers so they employed people from China and India. Most of the British Caribbean colonies became independent after 1960.

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