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The history of Jamaica is a rich and vibrant one, which inspires us to move forward as a nation. Our history speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity; and the growth and determination of a people. Jamaica, like many another of the West Indian Islands, is like a woman with a history. She has had her experiences and has lived her life rapidly. She has enjoyed a fever of prosperity founded upon those incalculable treasures poured into her lap by the old time buccaneer pirates.
She has suffered earthquake, famine, pestilence, fire and death: and she has been the home of cruel merciless slavery, hardly second to that practised by the Spaniards themselves. Other countries have taken centuries to grow from their primitive life through the flower and fruit of prosperity into the seed time of picturesque decrepitude.
Jamaica has lived through it all in a few years. The original inhabitants of Jamaica are believed to be the Arawaks, also called Tainos. The Arawaks were a mild and simple people by nature. Physically, they were light brown in colour, short and well-shaped with coarse, black hair. Their faces were broad and their noses flat.
They grew cassava, sweet potatoes, maize corn , fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. Tobacco was grown on a large scale as smoking was their most popular pastime. They built their villages all over the island but most of them settled on the coasts and near rivers as they fished to get food. Fish was also a major part of their diet.
The Arawaks led quiet and peaceful lives until they were destroyed by the Spaniards some years after Christopher Columbus discovered the island in On May 5, Christopher Columbus, the European explorer, who sailed west to get to the East Indies and came upon the region now called the West Indies, landed in Jamaica. This occurred on his second voyage to the West Indies. Columbus was soon to find out that there was no gold in Jamaica. Initially, Columbus thought these Indians were hostile, as they attacked his men when they tried to land on the island.
As he was determined to annex the island in the name of the king and queen of Spain, he was not deterred. Columbus also needed wood and water and a chance to repair his vessels. He sailed down the coast and docked at Discovery Bay. The Arawaks there were also hostile to the Spaniards. Some of the Arawaks were killed and wounded in this attack.
Columbus was then able to land and claim the island. The Spaniards, when they came, tortured and killed the Arawaks to get their land. They were so overworked and ill-treated that within a short time they had all died.
The process was aided by the introduction of European diseases to which the Arawaks had little or no resistance. The island remained poor under Spanish rule as few Spaniards settled here. Jamaica served mainly as a supply base: food, men, arms and horse were shipped here to help in conquering the American mainland. Fifteen years later in , after their first visit to the island, the first Spanish colonists came here under the Spanish governor Juan de Esquivel. They first settled in the St.
The first town was called New Seville or Sevilla la Nueva. Towns were little more than settlements. The only town that was developed was Spanish Town, the old capital of Jamaica, then called St. Jago de la Vega. It was the centre of government and trade and had many churches and convents. The little attention the colony received from Spain soon led to a major reason for internal strife.
This contributed to the weakening of the colony in the last years of Spanish occupation. The governors were not getting proper support from home and quarrels with church authorities undermined their control. The Spaniards surrendered to the English, freed their slaves and then fled to Cuba. It was this set of freed slaves and their descendants who became known as the Maroons. The early period of English settlement in Jamaica, drew much attention to the buccaneers based at Port Royal.
Buccaneering had begun on the islands of Tortuga and Hispaniola. They were a wild, rough and ruthless set of sea rovers. They took their loot of gold, silver and jewels to Port Royal. Port Royal prior to this time was an inificant town in Jamaica. The greatest buccaneer captain of all was Henry Morgan. He started out as a pirate and later became a privateer. Morgan mercilessly raided Spanish fleet and colonies. He kept the Spaniards busy defending their coasts that they had little time to attack Jamaica. Morgan died in A violent earthquake destroyed Port Royal on June 7, The survivors of the earthquake who re-settled in Kingston abandoned the Port.
Port Royal became an important naval base in the eighteenth century. The English settlers concerned themselves with growing crops that could easily be sold in England. Tobacco, indigo and cocoa soon gave way to sugar which became the main crop for the island. The sugar industry grew so rapidly that the 57 sugar estates in the island in grew to nearly by Enslaved Africans filled the large labour force required for the industry. The colonists were impressed with the performance and endurance of the Africans, as well as the fact that African labour was cheaper and more promising.
They continued to ship Africans to the West Indies to be sold to planters who forced them to work on sugar plantations. The slave trade became a popular and profitable venture for the colonists. The voyage was so named because the journey of a British slaver was 3-sided, starting from England with trade goods, to Africa where these were exchanged for slaves. Afterwards, the journey continued to the West Indies where the slaves were landed and sugar, rum and molasses taken aboard for the final leg of the journey back to England. The slaves, however, were unhappy with their status, so they rebelled whenever they could.
Many of them were successful in running away from the plantations and ing the Maroons in the almost inaccessible mountains. James, led by Sam Sharpe. He has since been named a National Hero. The Maroons also had several wars against the English. In and after two major Maroon Wars, treaties were ed with the British. In the treaty of , they were given land and rights as free men. In return they were to stop fighting and help to recapture run-away slaves.
This treaty resulted in a rift among the Maroons as they did not all agree that they should return run-away slaves to the plantations. The frequent slave rebellions in the Caribbean was one factor that led to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. Humanitarian groups such as the Quakers publicly protested against slavery and the slave trade. They formed an anti slavery committee which was ed by supporters such as Granville Sharp, James Ramsay, Thomas Clarkson and later on, William Wilberforce.
On January 1, the Abolition Bill was passed. Emancipation and apprenticeship came into effect in and full freedom was granted in The immediate post slavery days were very difficult for the poorer classes. Though most of the English planters had left the islands and new owners were running the plantations, the old oligarchic system still remained.
The will of the masses was not deemed important and hence ignored. To add fuel to the already burning flame, the American Civil War resulted in supplies being cut off from the island. A severe drought was also in progress and most crops were ruined. In October , an uprising in St. Bogle and his men stormed the Morant Bay Courthouse while it was in session.
A of white people was killed including the custos of the parish. The rebellion was put down by the Governor, Edward John Eyre. More than people were executed or shot, hundreds more flogged and 1, dwellings destroyed. George Gordon was a prominent coloured legislator who was sympathetic to the problems of the poor people and was blamed for the trouble caused by the masses. Eyre was subsequently recalled to England but not before exchanging the ancient Constitution for the Crown Colony system. Education, health, and social services were greatly improved.
A proper island-wide savings back system was organised. Ro, bridges and railways railways became government owned in were built and cable communication with Europe established The s saw Jamaica heading towards another crisis. The contributing factors were discontent at the slow pace of political advance. For example, the distress caused by a world-wide economic depression, the ruin of the banana industry by the Panama industry Disease, falling sugar prices, growing unemployment aggravated by the curtailment of migration opportunities and a steeply rising population growth rate.
In things came to a head with widespread violence and rioting.Jamaican websites for adults
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