Jamaica history

​Jamaica’s history like many other nations is laced with tragedy and triumphs, blood and tears, struggles and victories. Indeed it is an island paradise and as such, it suffers what beautiful women go through (being fought over and often getting hurt in the process). Firstly, the island was 

first occupied by the Taino Indians. They ended in Jamaica hopping from island to island in the Caribbean, running away from the warlike Carib Indians (Kalinagos). It was bad enough that their enemies would raid their villages but to also realize that they would actually eat them (cannibalism) would make anyone want to migrate. 

​The Tainos were peace-loving people who preferred an idyllic lifestyle. When Christopher Columbus and the Spaniards landed on the island in 1492, the Tainos were in no way prepared for the slavery and new diseases inflicted on them by the Spaniards. Some of these Indians even began to commit suicide to escape the harshness of life under the Spaniards and before long they were all but extinct.

The Tainos name for the island was “Xaymaca,” which quite fittingly means, “land of wood and water.” This was later modified by Spanish explorers, who substituted a J for the X at the beginning of the word. If you ever enjoyed sleeping in a hammock, you can also thank the Tainos for this invention as well.
The Spaniards being the enterprising lot that they were at the time soon turned to import slave labour from Africa. They did not find the coveted bounty of gold on the island but they did realize that they could turn a profit through slave-driven agriculture. It was not smooth sailing for the Spanish however as they were constantly being harrassed by English pirates who would attack the Spanish ships carrying precious cargo for export.
England was eager to carve out a piece of the lucrative pie of colonialism in the Caribbean. They tried to capture other Spanish ports and failed. Jamaica, however, was not so heavily fortified and in 1655 the English sacked Spanish Town, the then capital of Jamaica. The Spaniards were forced to flee the island but not before freeing the slaves who ran off the estates and took refuge in the mountains. These set of Africans became known as the Maroons and would go on to become a thorn in the sides of colonial English.
By the late 1600s, Jamaica grew to become the world largest grower of sugar cane and exporter of sugar. The sugar plantations, worked by African slaves, lead to large-scale slave trading and slave auctions.
In 1692 a massive earthquake sunk a vast part of Port Royal. At the time it was known as the richest and wicked place on earth, being the port of call for pirates and thugs who would bring in and spend their ill-gotten riches. It was after the earthquake’s devastation that people started going over to an area that we today call Kingston and started setting up settlements.
During the early 1800s, there was a growing movement, spear headed by abolitionists in England and the Baptist church to bring an end to the slave system. By 1838 their labour bore fruit and slavery was abolished in Jamaica.
In 1865 there was the infamous Morant Bay rebellion. A group led by Paul Bogle marched all the way from St. Thomas to Spanish Town to plead their case to the Governor (John Eyre). Black Jamaicans wanted the government to provide better working conditions and better representation as their was widespread injustice and poverty.
The Governor refused to hear their case. The unrest came to a head one day in Morant Bay during a court trial where rioters burnt the court down and attacked the militia. The governor responded with savage force; sending in troops who indiscriminately killed over 400 black Jamaicans, including women and children. However, the violence of his response was not well-received in England, and the next series of governors chosen more carefully.
By 1870 sugar was on the decline as numerous factors led to Jamaica no longer being competitive enough in the market. The island turned to the production of banana and coffee as they were more viable options.
By the late 1920s, Marcus Garvey emerged on the scene with his message of Black Nationalism and empowerment. He travelled extensively spreading this message namely among the blacks in North America and England. 
Around 1938 serious break down in labour relations took place and workers rioted in protest against unfair treatment and payment. Emerging from this period of political unrest were two National Heroes, Norman Manley (founder of the People’s National Party) and his cousin Alexander Bustamante (founder of the Jamaica Labour Party). They spear headed the fight for fair labour laws.
In 1958 Jamaica joined the Federation of the West Indies but left in 1961.
 On August 6, 1962, Jamaica gained independence. Bustamante, leader of the JLP became the island’s first prime minister.   

The Jamaican capital Port Royal destroyed by an earthquake
Spanish Town becomes the new capital.
Kingston was founded

Slavery abolished

Morant Bay rebellion:  Freed slaves are quelled in their rebellion against the British
 Jamaica becomes a crown colony

Banana plantations set up as the sugar cane industry declines

New constitution adopted

Serious riots  and People’s National Party (PNP) founded by Norman Manley.

1939-1945 WW2

August 1945 The United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

1958 –
Jamaica becomes a member of the Federation of the West Indies.

Jamaican withdrawal from the Federation of the West Indies.

Jamaican Independence: Jamaica becomes independent within the British Commonwealth
Alexander Bustamante elected prime minister.

Michael Manley becomes prime minister for the PNP

Edward Seaga becomes prime minister and the US grants the government substantial aid as the country distances itself from Cuba

Hurricane Gilbert

Michael Manley returns as prime minister.

Manley retires and is succeeded as Prime Minister by Percival J Patterson.

July: The army patrols Kingston following a massive increase in crime.

September: Hurricane Ivan

February: Portia Simpson Miller is elected head of PNP
March: Portia Simpson Miller becomes Jamaica’s first female PM in March.


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