Early History
Colonial Jamaica
Columbus and Eclipse
Jamaica was one of the islands of the Caribbean that was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. He returned there once more on his fourth voyage when his small flotilla of ships was beached by a storm. He actually ended up remaining on the island for a year due to the governor of Hispaniola refusing to rescue Columbus and his men. One apocryphal story of his time on the island is when he apparently mesmerised the local population by correctly predicting a lunar eclipse using his navigational charts and tables. Columbus gave the island the name Santiago but the Indian name of 'Xaymaca' remained in use by the indigenous population. Columbus was eventually rescued and returned to Spain. His description of the large island with plentiful food and new exotic crops encouraged the island's colonisation in 1509 when Juan de Esquival formally claimed it for the Spanish Crown.

Disappointed by the lack of gold, the Spanish authorities quickly identified the island as being a suitable provisioning base to expedite the colonisation of other parts of the Caribbean and Central/Southern America. The indigenous population was reduced by disease, violence and exploitation. The Spanish began the importation of African labour to replace the diminishing local population.

The first Spanish settlement had been established near St Ann's Bay and named Seville. However, disease and pestilence was a problem and so they moved it six miles into the interior to St Jago de la Vega in 1534. The English would later refer to this settlement as Spanish Town.

The English were lured by the wealth and success of the Spanish settlements througout the region. Jamaica itself was relatively unimportant, but it was a hub of activity and had potable water and supplies which could be highly prized at times. There were several attacks against the island, but the most significant early attack was by Sir Anthony Shirley in 1596. He successfully plundered and burned the small capital of the island. However, the Spanish merely retired once the English left and reestablished themselves. The English returned again in 1635 under Colonel Jackson to raid the small but self-sufficient Spanish colony.

The Western Design
It wasn't until the 1650s that the English changed from being raiders to being conquerors. Oliver Cromwell agreed to export his Protestant Revolution outside of England's borders in the years following Parliament's victory in the Civil War. His 'Western Design' was supposed to avoid a direct war in Europe itself but to take attack and seize the economically wealthy assets of England's Catholic rivals. Cromwell was partly convinced by an ex-Dominican monk turned Protestant by the name of Thomas Gage who had, unusually for an Englishman, spent time in the Spanish West Indies and Spanish Main. Thomas Gage convinced Oliver Cromwell that the islands were teeming with wealth and were sparely defended. The growing success of England's own sugar colonies in islands like Barbados, Nevis and St. Christopher further encouraged expansion into the Caribbean. The fact that many of the English colonists in the Caribbean had declared allegiance to the Crown gave an additional motivation to send Parliamentarian forces to the region to assert control and remind them who was now in power.

This Western Design was actually the first military investment into Trans-Oceanic Empire building by the English. Hitherto, all colonisation had been undertaken with a view to establishing new colonies in virgin territories by settlers inspired by profit or religion. Oliver Cromwell gave voice to the idea of seizing Catholic colonies and converting them into Protestant ones by force if necessary. This was a step change from merely raiding and privateering in and around the Spanish settlements.

Thirty-Eight warships carrying over two and a half thousand soldiers set sail from Spithead on Christmas day 1654. They were led by Admiral William Penn and Commander Robert Venables. They arrived in Barbados a month later and raised three to four thousand additional soldiers from indentured servants and freemen from the surrounding English colonies. Most of these soldiers, however, were of very poor quality and had little formal training. Indeed, most of the 'volunteers' were motivated by plunder but were to be disappointed when told that all Spanish possessions were to be left intact in order to allow successful English colonies to supplant them. Their initial target was Hispaniola and the large Spanish settlement at Santo Domingo. However, this was repulsed with relative ease and led the commanders to consider a plan B in order to 'save face' by going on to the much less formidably defended Jamaica.

Jamaica had a Spanish population of just two and a half thousand in 1655 when the English arrived and perhaps only 500 of these were able to bear arms. There was a sizeable population of slaves. This population was concentrated on the southern part of the island and had farms and plantations to feed themselves and to ships that called in for resupply.

Colonial Jamaica
Passage Fort
The English arrived off the island in Kingston Harbour on May 10th 1655. They sailed a gunboat up to 'Passage Fort' which gave covering fire to smaller vessels which poured soldiers ashore. No one was actually hit in the invasion as the Spanish defenders abandoned their positions on seeing so many ships and soldiers come ashore. The English then set off for the Spanish capital at St Jago de la Vega which was located six miles into the interior. En route they encountered a Spaniard bearing a flag of truce and gifts for the invaders. Commander Venables was keen to rest his troops who were still weakened and weary from their unsuccessful campaign in Hispaniola. He is reported to have received the flag of truce with the words that 'we have not come to plunder, but to plant'. He wished to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and destruction and so considered their offer of surrender.

On 11th May, his troops entered St Jago de la Vega, some of them got carried away and ransacked churches and important buildings but most things of value had already been taken into the interior by the fleeing Spanish. Commander Venables offered terms of surrender to the Spanish governor, Juan Ramirez. These were strict terms that replicated the Spanish terms imposed on the English to abandon their Providence Island colony back in 1641. Namely, all Spaniards had to leave the island within 10 days, forfeit all their property and their claims to the island. Furthermore, the governor was to remain as hostage and they were to provide the English with cassava bread and 200 head of cattle per day to feed the huge English force whilst they considered the surrender terms.

The Spanish were surprised at the harsh terms. Most of the inhabitants were born and bred in Jamaica and considered it their home. They provided the English with provisions but primarily to buy themselves time to retire into the interior and prepare for a guerilla war whilst awaiting rescue from Cuba where word of the invasion had been sent.

Four precious days were bought by the Spanish allowing many of the non-combatants to escape to Cuba and for them to release their remaining livestock and their slaves into the interior. The Spanish gave the slaves permission to raid and attack at will with no fear of retribution or repercussions. Some Spanish officers even remained with small groups of what became known as 'Maroons'. English soldiers who ventured out of the settlement were often attacked and mutilated in what became a vicious guerilla war in the jungles and hills of the interior.

Commander Venables had been tricked into giving the Spanish time to retreat and organise themselves in the interior. All whilst leaving the English forces with little to feed themselves or shelter his large army of occupation. English forays into the interior became fruitless expeditions as the Spanish or Maroons evaded the clumsy English who were unfamilar with the geography of the island. Nature, lack of food and disease further undermined the morale and effectiveness of the English forces.

Admiral Penn left almost immediately after capturing the island - possibly to give his version of the reasons for the failure to capture Hispaniola before Commander Venables was able to do so. Commander Venables came down with 'flux' and 'fever' and returned shortly afterwards also. Their sudden appearance back in England led to charges that they had abandoned their posts and they were both imprisoned in the Tower of London. They had left a force of 12 ships and 7,000 men which continued to harry and attack the Spanish but it was clear that the 'Western Design' had been a military and strategic failure. Jamaica was the only tangible success in what had otherwise been a dismal campaign with most troops dying of disease rather than to military action. They were now expected to survive on an island which had previously only planted food to feed 2,500 mouths.

Cromwell encouraged settlers to head to Jamaica to attempt to consolidate its control. Every male immigrant was to be allocated 20 acres and if accompanied by a woman and child was to receive an additional 10 acres. Colonists headed to Jamaica from a variety of locations. Some arrived from Caribbean islands like Bermuda and Barbados keen to find new land for themselves to grow tobacco. Indeed, the Quakers of Barbados moved en masse as they had found themselves unpopular when refusing to serve in the local militia. There was an infusion of Dutch from Brazil and from Surinam. Many of these were Jews who were expelled by the victorious Portuguese in the case of Brazil. The Dutch also brought skills and expertise in growing the new crop of sugar cane which was becoming increasingly popular and profitable. One thousand Irish boys and girls, all under the age of 14, were sent to the island as indentured servants. Additionaly, the Sheriffs of Scotland were asked to transport vagabonds and robbers to help populate the island. Less successful were pleas to the homesteads of New England and the East Coast believing. The authorities were hoping for an infusion of godly Protestants but nearly all of these New Englanders remained in the relative safety of North America. Despite all the strenuous attempts to attract settlers, they struggled to replace the disease ridden population of the early settlements quickly enough as disease, insurrection and starvation took its toll. By 1661 the population of the island was only 3,500 despite the fact that 12,000 had arrived in the previous five years hinting at the horrific mortality rate.

The new colony was also in a constant state of war being deeply embedded within the Spanish West Indies. England's nascent Commonwealth Navy, with the full encouragement of Oliver Cromwell, continued to harrass and harry Spanish ships, ports and searching for the all important Spanish Treasure Fleet. Courts of Admiralty were established so that prize money could be disbursed fairly. The twelve ships left behind by Admiral Penn were put to good use by Admiral Goodson who brought in a regular supply of prize vessels and destroyed the settlement of Santa Marta near Cartagena on the Spanish Main.

The importance of naval supremacy was quickly identified as being the key to success for the Jamaican outpost. Kingston Harbour was expanded rapidly. A fort was hurriedly constructed and fitted with guns to guard the anchorage behind the long sandy spit there. It was initially called Fort Cromwell but this would be changed to Fort Charles in due course. The small island on the spit rapidly expanded as traders sought the protection of the anchorage and the new opportunities for feeding and provisioning the new colony. Even if much of the wealth of the new colony was conditional upon the ravaging of Spanish possessions and ships in the area. Soon this port, better known by its post-1660 name of Port Royal, would be the most important English port in the Western Caribbean. Its strategic position helped ensure that despite the ravages of disease, resources and personnel would still be diverted to the new colony.

Meanwhile a small Spanish force continued to resist the English invasion from the interior of the island based in and around the inland town of Guatibacoa. The Spanish there attempted to ally themselves with the Maroons but disease and lack of supplies hampered their attempts. A Spanish force was sent from Cuba in 1657 to coordinate with the resisters but the English under Edward D'Oyley learned of the Spanish attempts to land men and equipment and intercepted and defeated them at Ocho Rios in the north of the island. A second attempt by the Spanish in 1658 was again defeated by Edward D'Oyley but this time at Rio Nuevo. The island was militarily secured for the first time. There would still be Maroons raiding and attacking from the interior for decades to come, but from this point on they would have to rely on their own resources and receive no help from the outside world.

Despite his victories against the Spanish, governor Edward D'Oyley was concerned for the long term viability of the colony in such a hostile region. One solution he came up with was to invite anti-Spanish pirates and privateers to establish themselves in Jamaica without fear of prosecution or retribution. He invited pirate groups like the largely Huguenot 'Brethren of the Coast' to operate out of Port Royal and issued them with letters of Marque to harry and raid Spanish ships as long as they left English ships alone. So began the long association between pirates and Jamaica as the authorities turned to desperate measures to help secure their isolated outpost.

The English Commonwealth only lasted until 1660 - but its brief foray into imperial expansion marked a fundamental shift in England's attitude to Empire. It may have appeared to have achieved little in its five brief years of imperial adventure but its tiny toehold would be consolidated and expanded upon by the Restoration governments that followed. England was no longer just nibbling at the successes of other imperial powers, it was prepared to take on those powers and supplant them if possible - as they showed in Jamaica.

Restoration Jamaica
News of the fall of the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the monarchy did not reach Jamaica until 1661. However, the new Royalist authorities identified that it was best to keep Edward D'Oyley, despite his Parliamentarian history, in charge of the young colony. There were concerns by many Jamaican settles that Charles II might be sympathetic to Spanish calls for a return of the possessions seized by Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth. However, Charles quickly assured them that he had no intention of returning any Caribbean islands to the Spanish. Furthermore, he formalised the relationship between the planters and the English government and encouraged economic activity of the colonies. Navigation Acts were passed which gave a monopoly to English colonies to sell tobacco, cotton and sugar to England. These Navigation Acts formed the fundamental basis of the colonial economy for the next two centuries and gave planters a guaranteed market and that they could not be undercut by foreign producers. Additionally, planters were reissued with land deeds and in 1662 the King issued a proclamation giving Jamaica's non-slave population the rights of English citizens, including the right to make their own laws. By 1664 a House of Assembly was established to advise the crown-appointed governor and help run the colony.

The Jamaican economy was dangerously dependent upon the income of bucanneers and privateers. Chancers and adventurers preferred the small chance of a large prize than to toil in the fields and plantations of the hot and humid colony. The population of Port Royal increased whilst the hoped for planters in the interior had not yet even recovered the amount of cultivation achieved by their Spanish predecessors. Governor D'Oyley complained that few were interested in the 'dull, tedious way of planting'. D'Oyley began to regret inviting the buccaneers to the colony as he identified that even when they did bring a prize ship into harbour it merely encouraged more planters to chance their hand at piracy and the only real beneficiaries of the money seemed to be the alehouses of Port Royal. Even spectacular successes like the 1663 sacking of Campeche on the Spanish Main just resulted in prices inflating on the island and fewer people willing to work. The sheer quantity of spanish treasure taken and circulating in the Jamaican economy meant that the colony soon adopted the Spanish currency as its legal tender.

1665 saw England add Holland and France to its list of enemies as the Second Anglo-Dutch war broke out. There were now additional strategic concerns that any of these three European powers might raid Jamaica or attack her ships. It also meant that there were more targets for Jamaican privateers and buccaneers. There were raids against St. Augustine in Florida, Grenada in Nicaragua, Porto Bello and most spectacularly of all against Panama in 1671. This decade saw the rise to prominence of Sir Henry Morgan who led the last two expeditions mentioned. The English weren't to have it all their way in the Caribbean, but the notorious reputation of Jamaica meant that she was not attacked or seized by any of the European rival powers.

Colonial Jamaica
Sack of Panama
Jamaica began its transition to a planter economy with the arrival of Governor Sir Thomas Modyford in 1664. Unlike previous governors, Modyford was an established aristocrat with a huge household who had already had experience growing sugar in Barbados. In fact, he brought over 1,000 slaves and encouraged 800 planters follow him as he sought to turn Jamaica into a similarly profitable sugar island. Modyford was to be governor for seven years giving him time to bring many of his ideas to fruition. He still dabbled in buccaneering seeing that it provided a defence for the island at little cost and at times some considerable profit. He would oversee a period of massive land distribution as he sought to reward followers and encourage planters to establish themselves. His skill and experience in the sugar industry was also invaluable as he encouraged the slow process of clearing and preparing land for sugar cultivation. His high handed tactics did not endear him to the existing planter class who resented his rewarding of favourites, family members and the newly arrived. The Assembly and Modyford would clash over running the colony and he would seek their advice less and less. In the end, the lure of privateering and buccaneering would be his undoing when peace with Spain was formalised in 1670 with the Treaty of Madrid.
Colonial Jamaica
Pirate Irons
This Treaty formally recognised England's control of Jamaica for the first time. So it was deeply embarrassing when the authorities discovered that the attack on the Spanish settlement of Panama in 1671 was planned and authorised by Modyford from Jamaica. This was a clear breach of the Treaty provisions. Modyford was recalled to England and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1674.

The new governor, Sir Thomas Lynch, was given instructions to ensure that privateers and buccaneers were no longer welcome in Port Royal and set about evicting them. Henry Morgan was also arrested but on return to England found that he had become something of a hero and was actually knighted by Charles II and later returned to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor. However before that could happen the sitting Governor Lynch attempted to convince the privateers to convert to planting but not all were convinced and many relocated to Bermuda and set themselves up as out and out pirates - raiding ships of any nationality including the English. 1685 saw the final nail in Jamaica's privateers coffin as the first English naval squadron arrived in Port Royal for permanent patrol and defence in the region. The problem had ostensibly been evicted from Jamaica but not from the Caribbean.

The arrival of a Catholic king back in England as James II replaced his brother in 1685 saw an insurrection that sought to put the Duke of Monmouth on the throne. This was put down relatively easily, but the infamous assizes that followed the uprising saw many of the participants exiled to Jamaica as indentured slaves for the unusually long period of 10 years. Fortunately for many of these transportees, their sentences were to be cut short and pardoned due to political events back in England.

Jamaica after the Glorious Revolution
Colonial Jamaica
Carlisle Bay
1688 once again saw a change in the crown of England as William of Orange came to the throne at the expense of James II. Almost immediately this set forth a new chain of wars that involved England and her overseas possessions. The Nine Years War or the War of the Grand Alliance saw England fighting with Holland against the rising Catholic power of France. France would displace Spain as England's primary enemy in the coming century and a half. This was felt on the island of Jamaica in 1694 when the French landed men on the North and East coastlines of Jamaica intending to hurt the economic capabilities of England to wage war. The operations were commanded by Admiral Du Casse. The culmination of these raids was when 1500 Frenchmen landed in Carlisle Bay in Clarendon parish and started attacking local plantations and seizing slaves. The local militia was called out to meet the raiding force and, together with slaves, helped repulse the French who fled in their ships, but taking some 1300 captured slaves and having destroyed over 4 dozen sugar estates and plantations.

Jamaica Earthquake
Jamaica Earthquake
The real tragedy to hit Jamaica in these years, however, was the 1692 earthquake which struck Port Royal and utterly destroying the settlement. Indeed, two-thrids of the settlement built on the sandy spit sank immediately into the sea. 90% of the town was under water thanks also to a resulting tsunami. The settlement was so utterly destroyed that the seat of government was relocated to the old Spanish capital now renamed Spanishtown 6 miles into the interior. Attempts to rebuild Port Royal were thwarted by a serious fire in 1703 and a hurricane in 1722.
Colonial Jamaica
Admiral Benbow
Eventually, Kingston on the landward side of the lagoon would replace Port Royal as the principal port and later the administrative capital. Many pious Christians throughout the Empire believed that the earthquake was divine judgement for the years of piracy, alcholism and debauchery which had gone on in the settlement over the previous half century.

The new century saw a new war with France. The War of the Spanish succession once again pitted empire against empire. Admiral Benbow was despatched to the Jamaica Station to guard the Western Caribbean from a large French fleet (once again under the command of Du Casse.) After a hard battle lasting five days (and where Admiral Benbow lost a leg) his own captains implored the Admiral to break off and retire. On returning to Port Royal, the two leading captains were shot by Benbow for undermining his command and neglect of duties. Admiral Benbow himself died of his wounds and was buried in Kingston.

Hanoverian Jamaica
Although Port Royal was virtually destroyed in an earthquake in 1692, ' Jamaica's economic life was not seriously interrupted as a new capital was speedily built at near-by Kingston. Despite the , earthquake and later fires and hurricanes Port Royal survived as a naval station and in the 18th Century the Royal Navy's time-honoured institution of !'grog" was born at its quays. The wo.rd itself commemorates Admiral Vernon, known to his sailors as "Old Grog" from the material of which his breeches were made, a coarse-grained cloth called grogram. Vernon issued an order from his flagship Burford on August 21, 1740: because of "the pernicious custom of the Seamen drinking their Allowance ofRumin drams, and often at once, which is attended by many Fatal Effects to their Morale as well as to their Health," the stupefying daily allowance of half a pint per man was to be mixed with a quart of water. This was to be done in a "Butt kept for the purpose and on deck, in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch." The distribution took place twice a day, and the custom survived in the Royal Navy until 1970.

France back down. In the War of the American Revolution, and the wider conflict which followed, island after island at first fell to the Fr~nch. In the end, all was redeemed by Rodney, by then a veteran of Caribbean engagements. In April, 1782, in an action fought in the Saints Passage off Dominica, he defeated the French Admiral, de Grasse, captured his flagship the V ille de Paris, and saved Jamaica from invasion. In fact he did far more. His success enabled Britain to make a better peace than she otherwise could have done, and although she lost her American Colonies she retained her precious islands in the West Indies, from which she drew so much revenue, direct and indirect.

Governor Edward Eyre was a man of courage and determination. When young, he had made journeys of almost unbelievable hardship across part of unknown Australia. His later experience had included high posts in New Zealand and in the Leeward Islands and he had consistently shown sympathy with the under-dog. But when he went to Jamaica as Acting Governor in 1862 he was at once appalled by the poverty and disorder in the island, and was shocked at what he saw as the laziness and lack of morals in the people of all classes.

Hardship, which had been increasing since emancipation, had in fact been made still worse by the rise in prices of foodstuffs due to the American Civil War. This monumental struggle together with the realization that "black" republics had been established in Haiti in 1804 and in San Domingo in 1844, led to a situation which could become explosive at any moment. The negroes hated the whites, whom they outnumbered 27 to one and all that was necessary was effective agitation. This was soon supplied.

One particularly active negro, a magistrate and a member of the Legislative Assembly, was Williarn George Gordon. He annoyed Eyre excessiveli by complaining about conditions under which peflple at St. Thomas awaited trial, and the Governor deprived him of his magistracy. When rioting broke out in October, 1865, after a number of negroes had prevented the capture of a known criminal, Eyre at onCe suspected Gordon of being at the back of the disorder, for Gordon had made no secret of his opposition to almost every official action taken by the Governor since his arrival.

Trouble came quickly. On October II the Court House at Morant Bay was burnt, and in the fighting customs officers, militiamen and many more insurgents were killed or wounded. Property was destroyed, and outrages were committed against white people.With their memories of slave rebellions, war against the Maroons, apprehensive white people felt that a very strong hand indeed was needed. Eyre supplied it.

The Governor at once mobilized army, navy, European civilians, and ioyal negroes, and between October 13 and November 13 he imposed martial law at Morant Bay. This did not apply at Kingston, where Gordon was at the time of the outbreak, but Eyre had him arrested anyway, brought to St. Thomas in a ship of war, tried, and executed. It was a very high-handed act, and it was followed by repression of the harshest kind. Over 600 negroes died, an equal nlimber were flogged, including some women, and a thousand dwellings were destroyed by the combined forces of the Establishment - and this 30 years after emancipation.

Gratitude to Eyre on the part of the whites was so overwhelming that the Legislative Assembly actually voted itself out ot existence, so thankfully did it regard the prospect of Jamaica becoming a Crown Colony, at any rate temporarily. But liberal feeling in England was outraged by the severities which Eyre had sanctioned, and a Royal Commission was sent to Jamaica to investigate matters. It sat from January to March, r866, and then reported. The upshot was that the government of the day thanked Eyre for his prompt measures, blamed him for excess in reprisals, and recalled him. He lived for another 30 years but never had another official posting. He became the centre of controversy, and the subject of a certain amount of persecution. There is no doubt that Eyre acted precipitately, not to say vindictively in the case of Gordon ; it was on this fact that charges against him mainly rested.

The Royal African Company was formed in 1672 with a monopoly of the slave trade in the English colonies. It was from this time that Jamaica became one of the greatest slave markets and destinations in the world. The sugar-industry was introduced about this period, the first pot of sugar being sent to London in 1673. The problem with sugar was that the cane required very heavy labour in very uncomfortable conditions to extract the necessary syrup. Native labour was in short supply and unwilling to do the hard work required. Experiments were attempted with indentured labour from England but the physical constitution of these Europeans was not up to the task. Slavery provided the solution to the planters' problem. Strong workers who were used to the physically demanding geography were imported from Africa. These slaves were denied the luxury of refusing the work. They were forced, with incredible brutality, to do the menial but harsh work. As the demand for sugar in Europe seemed insatiable, more and more plantations were established and more slaves were imported to fulfil the labour requirements.

During these years of political struggle the colony was frequently afflicted by nature. A great earthquake occurred in 1602, when the chief part of the town of Port Royal, built on a shelving bank of sand, slipped into the sea. Two dreadful hurricanes devastated the island in 1712 and 1722, the second of which did so much damage that the seat of commerce had to be transferred from Port Royal to Kingston.

Colonial Jamaica
Slave Stocks
The main event in the history of the island during the later years of the 18th century, was the threatened invasion by the French and Spanish in 1782 during the American Wars of Independence. However, Jamaica was saved by the victory of Rodney and Hood off Dominica. The last attempt at invasion was made in 1806 during the Napoleonic War, when the French were defeated by Admiral Duckworth.

When the slave trade was abolished by the British in 1807 the island was at the zenith of its prosperity; sugar, coffee, cocoa, pimento, ginger and indigo were being produced in large quantities. The anti-slavery agitation in Great Britain found its echo in the island, and in 1832 the slaves revolted, believing that emancipation had been granted. They killed a number of whites and destroyed a large amount of valuable property. Two years later the Emancipation Act was passed, and, subject to a short term of apprenticeship, the slaves were free.

Slaves were not compensated for their period of enslavement and yet the slaveowners were. The British government awarded them compensation at the rate of 19 pound per slave, the market value of slaves at the time being 35 pounds, but much of this compensation went into the hands of the planters' creditors, middlemen and lawyers. The economic fortunes of the island were about to decline, although more because of a shift to Free Trade policies and the growing of sugar beet in Europe rather than due to the abolition of slavery. During the era of slavery the British government had protected planters by imposing a heavy differential duty on foreign sugar; but on the introduction of free trade the price of sugar fell by one-half and reduced the profits of the already impoverished planter. Many estates were abandoned or sold at a loss. Differences between the executive, the legislature, and the home government, as to the means of balancing public expenditure on the island, created much bitterness. There was some slight improvement during the administrations of Sir Charles Metcalfe and the earl of Elgin, when Indian immigration was introduced to supply the scarcity and irregularity of labor and the railway was opened. However, this only masked the long term decline of the economic viability of the colony.

In 1865 Edward John Eyre became governor. Financial affairs were at their lowest ebb and the colonial treasury showed a deficit of 80,000 pounds. To meet this difficulty new taxes were imposed and discontent was rife amongst the black population of the island. Dr Underhill, the secretary of a Baptist organization known as the British Union, wrote to the colonial secretary in London, pointing out the state of affairs. This letter became public in Jamaica, and in the opinion of the governor added in no small measure to increased tensions. On the 11th of October 1865 rebels rose at Morant Bay and killed most of the white inhabitants there. The encounter which followed filled the island with terror, and there was no doubt that many excesses were committed on both sides. The assembly passed an act by which martial law was proclaimed, and the legislature passed an act abrogating the constitution.

The action of Governor Eyre, though generally approved throughout the West Indies, caused much controversy in England, and he was recalled. Opinion was sharply divided with some deploring his hard line tactics but others regarding him as a hero in his active defence of law and order. Prosecutions of murder were instigated against Eyre, but they petered out due to a lack of clarity in his constitutional powers. However, a direct consequence of the rebellion was that the Jamaica Assembly renounced its charter and Jamaica became a Crown Colony.

In 1868 the first fruit shipment took place from Port Antonio, this would provide a new economic lifeline to the island and shortly afterwards the immigration of indentured labour was revived. Another economic opportunity came with the cultivation of the cinchona plant was introduced which was used in the production of quinine.

In. the afternoon of the 14th of January 1907 a terrible earthquake occurred in Kingston. Almost every building in the capital and in surrounding towns were destroyed or seriously damaged. The Americans tried to supply relief with the despatch of three warships to aid the island. The US Commander, Rear Admiral Davis, had to withdraw them on the 19th, owing to a misunderstanding with the governor of the island, Sir Alexander Swettenham, over the role of US marines in trying to preserve order. The incident caused a diplomatic stir, and led to Sir A. Swettenham's resignation in the following March and being replaced by Sir Sydney Olivier. However, the destructive effect of the earthquake was a severe check to the prosperity of the island.

It became independent in 1962.
Colonial Jamaica
Kingston, 1825
Colonial Jamaica
RN off Kingston
Colonial Jamaica
Montego Bay Warning
Colonial Jamaica
RN at Port Royal
Colonial Jamaica
Banana Production
Colonial Jamaica
Kingston, 1930s

Imperial Flag
map of Jamaica
Port Royal Earthquake Effects Map
1731 Map of Jamaica
1774 Map of Port Royal
William Knibb & Resistance to Slavery Map
Historical Jamaica
National Archive Jamaica Images
1655 - 1962
Significant Individuals
1655 - 1962
Witness: Jamaica
A BBC audio program about the slave revolt in Jamaica in 1832
Montego Bay to Williamsfield, 1913
Timeline of Jamaican History
1494 Columbus discovers Jamaica
1509 Claimed by Spain
1596 Sir Anthony Shirley plunders St Jago de la Vega
1635 Colonel Jackson raids Jamaica
1654 'Western Design' formulated
1655 Penn and Venables attack and seize island
1656 1600 settlers arrive from Nevis
1657 D'Oyley defeats Spanish at Ocho Rio
1658 D'Oyley defeats Spanish at Rio Nuevo
1660 Restoration of Monarchy in England
1660 Navigation Act
1661 D'Oyley reappointed as governor by Charles II
1662 Proclamation that all born in Jamaica to English subjects should be citizens of England
1662 Militia formed
1663 Lands granted to Maroons
1663 Jamaica fleet sacks Campeche
1664 House of Assembly meets first time at St Jago de la Vega
1664 Island divided into 7 parishes
1665 Royal African Company's first factor arrives
1665 The New Royal African Company created
1668 Spanish currency made legal tender
1670 Spain officially cedes Jamaica to England
1670 Island divided into 12 parishes
1670 Governor Modyford relieved after sending privateers against Spanish vessels after treaty signed
1672 First Deficiency Law statinging that 1 white man = 10 negroes
1672 First Hurricane recorded
1672 Royal African Company reformed
1673 Population recorded as 17,272
1674 Henry Morgan Governor
1675 1200 Surinam settlers arrive and begin sugar planting
1675 35 slaves executed for conspiracy to rebel
1678 A 'slave mutiny' reported and martial law enforced
1683 Henry Morgan suspended from Council and all commands
1683 A Post Office formed
1685 Slave rebellion suppressed
1685 Monmouth rebels sent to Jamaica for 10 year term
1689 First Assiento Company to supply Spanish with Jamaican slaves
1690 Slave revolt
1692 Port Royal Earthquake
1694 French raid Jamaica, defeated at Carlisle Bay
1695 St Domingo attacked from Jamaica
1696 French fleet threatens Jamaica
1698 Population 47, 465 - of which c40,000 are slaves
1699 Jamaica prohibited with trading with Scots at Darien
1730 - 39 First Maroon War
1746 Slave rebellion
1760 Slave revolt, 400 executed
1795 - 96 Second Maroon War
1807 Slave trade abolished
1831 The Baptists' War - slave revolt
1834 Slavery abolished
1838 Apprenticeships abolished
1846 Preferential sugar tariffs ended
1865 Morant Bay Rebellion
1870 Banana cultivation encouraged as sugar cane declines
1884 New constitution
1938 Riots and strikes over racial policies and unemployment
1938 People's National Party founded by Norman Manley
1944 New constitition with universal suffrage
1958 Joins Federation of the West Indies.
1961 Leaves Federation of the West Indies
1962 Independence
Further Reading
The Sugar Barons
by Parker, Matthew

Lasting Legacy: A Story of British Colonialism
by Kenneth Blackburne

A Start in Freedom
by Hugh Foot

Via Ports: from Hong Kong to Hong Kong
by Sir Alexander Grantham

The Far Horizon: Portrait of a Colonial Judge
by Sir William Brandford Griffith

Far Away Cows: Veterinary Vignettes from the Third World
by Patrick Guilbride

Too much to Tell
by Molly Huggins

Missionary Triumph over Slavery: William Knibb and Jamaican Emancipation
by Peter Masters

Journal of a Residence among the Negroes in the West Indies
by Matthew Lewis

Old Sinister: A Memoir of Sir Arthur Richards
by Richard Peel

It's Been a Pleasure
by Sandys Sherwood

Times Remembered in Africa and the Caribbean
by Sir John Stow

For Colonial Jamaican Items