recorded history of Jamaica
may be roughly divided into
first period may be said
to date from Columbusí arrival
in the island in 1494 to the destruction
of Port Royal in 1692. This covers
nearly 200 years. But very little
is known about the days when the
Spaniards were masters of Jamaica.
On the other hand, a good deal
is known about the first fifty
years of Jamaica as a British
second period of our history
extends from.the destruction of
Port Royal to the abolition of
the slave trade in 1807. During
this time Jamaica flourished as
an agricultural colony and became
very rich. It reached the height
of its prosperity just before
the slave trade was abolished;
that is, just before the British
Government decided that no more
slaves were to be brought from
Africa and sold as private property
third period of Jamaican history
covers the years between the abolition
of the slave trade and the Morant
Bay rebellion in 1865. During
the 46 years between the abolition
of the slave trade and the rebellion,
the country passed through many
misfortunes and there was a great
deal of misery and ill-feeling
among the different classes of
people in the island.
fourth period dates from
1865 to the end of July, 1914.
fifth period began with
the outbreak of the First World
War on August 1, 1914 and ended
on August 1962.
sixth period began on August
6, 1962, and records the history
of Jamaica as an independent country.
1494 on May 4, Christopher
Columbus arrived at the island
of Jamaica. This was on his second
voyage to the New World, which
was afterwards called America.
Columbus annexed the island in
the name of his master and mistress.
the King and Queen of Spain. But
it was not occupied until Juan
de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo
in 1509. and for 146 years Jamaica
remained a Spanish colony.
was then inhabited by a gentle
race of people called the Arawaks
or Tainos. They had probably
come from the country now known
as Guyana, where Arawak Indians
are still to be found. They
were short people, rather stout,
with straight black hair and
flattish noses; they were copper-coloured.
They lived in huts shaped like
those of the peasants of Jamaica.
They slept in hammocks. They
made rough seats of wood, and
spears tipped with stone, or
with the teeth of sharks. They
did not have the bow and arrow.
The men were skilful fishermen,
and caught fish and turtle to
eat. They made their cooking
vessels out of clay, and burnt
them in fire till they became
hard. The women grew cassava,
corn and sweet potatoes for
food. Cotton grew wild in the
island, and they twisted the
fibre into cloth, strips of
which they wore around their
waists. They also wore strings
of beads and shells.
the Spaniards made slaves of
them and put them to difficult
tasks. The Spaniards treated
the Arawaks so harshly that
in about fifty years all of
them were dead. They had numbered
fully sixty thousand. The Spaniards
got slaves from Africa to take
Spaniards first settled on that
part of the northern coast of
Jamaica which is now known as
the parish of St. Ann. There
they built a town called Sevilla
Nueva, or New Seville. Afterwards
they moved to the southern part
of the island and built the
town of St. Jago de la Vega
(St. James of the Plain), which
is still called Spanish Town.
The island was given to the
Columbus family as a personal
estate in 1540, but they did
nothing to develop it. The Spanish
colony in Jamaica was never
a very large or a very flourishing
1655 on May 10, a body
of English sailors and soldiers
landed at Passage Fort, in Kingston
harbour, and marched towards Spanish
Town. They were commanded by Admiral
Penn and General Venables, who
had been sent by Oliver Cromwell
to capture the island of Hispaniola.
Penn and Venables failed to take
the city of Santo Domingo and
sailed on to Jamaica. On May 11,
the Spaniards surrendered. They
were allowed a few days to leave
the island. Some of them went
to Cuba, but others secretly went
to the northside of Jamaica.
the month of October, General
Sedgwicke arrived from England
and took charge of the colony.
Many of the English sailors
and soldiers, and the people
who came with Sedgwicke, died
from the fevers of the country
and the hard food and water
they consumed. Sedgwicke himself
died shortly after his arrival,
and General Brayne was sent
out to manage the affairs of
the colony. He expected he would
be attacked by the Spaniards
of Cuba, and so he fortified
the positions occupied by the
English. General Brayne died
in 1656, and General Doyley,
an officer of the army, became
1657 Don Cristobal
Arnaldo de Ysassi led strong guerrilla
forces in the interior. He had
been appointed the last Spanish
Governor of Jamaica. Two expeditions
from Cuba came to the north coast
to help him. General Doyley attacked
both times by sailing around the
island from Kingston. He defeated
Ysassi near Ocho Rios in 1657
and at Rio Nuevo in 1658, the
last named being the biggest battle
ever fought in Jamaica. Ysassi
continued to hold out until 1660,
when the defection of Maroon allies
made his cause hopeless, and he
and his followers escaped to Cuba
1661 a Commission arrived
from England formally appointing
Doyley as Governor of Jamaica,
and commanding him to establish
a Council to assist him in the
government of the colony. This
Council was to be elected by the
1662 Lord Windsor arrived
as Governor of Jamaica. He brought
with him a Royal Proclamation
declaring that all children born
of English subjects in Jamaica
should be regarded as free citizens
of England. Lord Windsor retired
from the Government of Jamaica
within the year, and Sir Charles
Lyttleton became Deputy Governor.
There were then 4,205 persons
in Jamaica. Santiago de Cuba was
captured and looted by Admiral
1663 an expedition
sailed from Jamaica to attack
the Spanish town of Campeche,
in Central America. After some
misfortunes, this effort succeeded,
and much booty and many ships
were taken by the English. In
the same year we first hear of
the English trying to suppress
the Maroons. These were descendants
of former slaves of the Spanish.
They escaped to the mountains
and forests in the interior, where
they lived a wild, free life and,
it was rumoured, murdered every
white person they came across.
An expedition was sent against
them under Juan de Bolas, a former
Maroon who had aided the English.
The soldiers were defeated. Peace
was patched up shortly afterwards
between the Maroons and the English,
but it did not last for long.
1664 the first House
of Assembly was called together.
It consisted of twenty members
elected by the people. It met
at Spanish Town and passed 45
laws for the government of the
Thomas Modyford arrived from
Barbados with a thousand settlers.
He was a Barbadian planter and
had once governed Barbados before
he was sent to Jamaica as Governor.
He helped and protected the
English buccaneers under Henry
Morgan who had moved to Port
Royal from Tortuga. The ships
and the plunder they brought
vastly enriched Port Royal.
Modyford encouraged agriculture,
especially the cultivation of
cocoa and the sugar-cane. During
this time a large number of
slaves were brought from Africa
to Jamaica. However, the slave
trade with Jamaica had commenced
before this date.
1673 there were 17,272
persons in Jamaica. In that year
Sir Henry Morgan became Lieutenant-Governor.
1674 Lord Vaughan arrived
as Governor. The next year 1,200
settlers from Surinam came to
Jamaica and started sugar planting.
1677 Lord Vaughan justify
Jamaica, and Sir Henry Morgan
once more became Lieutenant-Governor.
He was again Lieutenant-Governor
in 1680. This was the same Henry
Morgan who, in 1668, attacked
Porto Bello on the Isthmus of
Panama, and plundered it. In 1671,
leading a body of buccaneers from
Jamaica, he attacked and captured
the old city of Panama, plundered
it and burnt it to the ground.
1678 the Earl of Carlisle
arrived as Governor. He brought
with him instructions that before
any laws were passed by the House
of Assembly, a draft of them should
be submitted to the King for his
alterations or approval. Before
this, the House of Assembly had
first passed laws, and then sent
them to England for the KingÆs
approval. The House strongly protested
against this change, which would
have reduced its power and authority
very much. After a long struggle,
the English Government yielded,
and the old system was continued.
1687 the Duke of Albemarle
as Governor. With him came Sir
Hans Sloane as his physician.
Sir Hans Sloane wrote two large
volumes on Jamaica. Albemarle
favoured Sir Henry Morgan, who
died in 1688 and was buried with
honours at Port Royal.
1690 the Earl of Inchiquin
arrived as Governor. During this
year a rebellion of the slaves
took place at Chapelton in Clarendon.
It was suppressed, and the ringleaders
were executed. Some of the slaves,
however, escaped to the mountains,
where they joined the Maroons.
1692 Sir William Beeston
became Governor of Jamaica.
June 7, the great Port Royal
earthquake occurred. Port Royal
was then the chief city in Jamaica,
famous for its riches. The House
of Assembly met there. The buccaneers
took their prizes there. The
houses were substantially built
of stone. The inhabitants lived
a wild, reckless life, and Port
Royal was described as one of
the wickedest places on earth.
about 20 minutes to 12, on the
forenoon of June, the 7, the
inhabitants of the town were
startled by a noise like thunder,
which seemed to come from the
north. Immediately the earth
began to shake, and then the
walls of the houses fell on
every side. There were three
shocks. The first was not very
severe; the last was the worst.
A considerable portion of the
city sank beneath the sea. The
sea receded, then rushed back
with terrible force, sweeping
over the land and drowning hundreds
of persons. Thousands perished.
Minor shocks occurred all that
day and for several days afterwards.
The earthquake was felt all
over the island; great landslides
occurred and some springs disappeared.
The dead bodies of the people
floated in harbour and rotted
on the land. Port Royal was
almost completely ruined. Its
surviving inhabitants endeavored
to restore what was justify
of it to its former importance,
but in 1704, a fire broke out
in one of its warehouses and
destroyed every building except