History (Jamaica)




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Travel Guide


Published Mar 30, 1999

The Arawak Indians, early residents who arrived from South America around 650 AD, named the island Xaymaca or “land of wood and water.” They lived peacefully on the land and the sea’s bounty.

Jamaica, the Caribbean's third-largest island, was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1494 on his second voyage to the New World. When the Spanish arrived later, they were welcomed by the Arawaks, inventors of the hammock. In return, the Indians were executed or taken as slaves. The only thing that remains of this race the name they gave to the island.


In 1692, an earthquake struck the city of Port Royal, located on a peninsula near Kingston, and the entire city was lost to the sea. Today, efforts are underway to recover artifacts of what had been termed “the richest, wickedest city in Christendom.”

The Spanish lost the island in 1655 to the English. Soon, slavery increased as sugar became a booming industry. During these years, the English tried to tame an area of the island in the Blue Mountains that they nicknamed “the land of look behind.” In this little-traveled region of Jamaica’s interior, soldiers feared attack by the Maroons, descendants of slaves who had escaped from the Spanish. Soldiers always rode two to a horse, one looking forward and one backward, in order to protect themselves. In 1739, the British gave the Maroons autonomy, and even today they retain a separateness from Jamaican authority.

In 1834, slavery was abolished, but the the sugar industry continued. Later it was joined by the banana industry, and at the turn of the century visitors began to arrive aboard those banana boats. The tourism business grew to become Jamaica’s most important form of income.

After the abolition of slavery, Jamaica’s plantation owners looked for another source of labor. From 1838 to 1917, over 30,000 Indians immigrated to Jamaica, followed by about 5,000 Asians from 1860 to 1893 who came as indentured laborers. They were also joined by immigrants from the Middle East, primarily what is now Lebanon (although, in Jamaica, these residents are known as “Syrians.”)

Jamaica has been an independent nation since 1962.


600-1000 AD: Arawak Indians arrived in Jamaica from South America

1494: Columbus made his first visit to Jamaica

1503-1504: A shipwreck strands Columbus on the island’s north coast during the explorer’s fourth expedition. The explorer stays at Santa Gloria, now St. Ann’s Bay.

1509: The first Spanish colony is established in Jamaica in what is now St. Ann’s Bay.

1513: Enslaved Africans arrive in Jamaica.

1520: Jamaica begins to cultivate sugarcane.

1598: The Spanish governor proposes a separate area for the Arawak Indian population, which was quickly diminishing due to disease and hard labor conditions. The proposal fails.

1655: British troops invade and take over Jamaica. No Arawaks remain alive on the island.

1656: British colonists settle at Port Morant; most die from disease.

1670: Peace of Madrid officially puts Jamaica under British rule.

1678: First mention of slave uprising.

1690: First significant slave uprising in Clarendon; many slaves escape into Cockpit Country.

1690-1739: First Maroon War fought across the island as British fight Maroons.

1692: Port Royal suffers a catastrophic earthquake and thousands die.

1760: Slave uprising in St. Mary led by Tacky, a runaway slave.

1795: Second Maroon War.

1831: Hanging of Sam Sharpe, leader of last great slave rebellion, in Montego Bay.

1834: Slavery brought to an end. For four years after this event, slaves had to work without pay.

1835: Small groups of Germans arrive in Jamaica in Seaford Town.

1838: Slavery officially abolished in Jamaica.

1838-1917: Large migration of Indians into Jamaica.

1860-1893: Large migration of Chinese into Jamaica as indentured workers.

1960: Tourism industry begins.

1962: Jamaica becomes independent country.

1980: Elections result in hundreds of deaths in violent protests across island.

1988: Hurricane Gilbert hits Jamaica.

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8 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Nov 19, 2010 11:17pm [ 1 ]

no such people called slave masters, they are instead enslavers

Nov 22, 2010 9:04pm [ 2 ]

Is how black people love reffer to their ancestors as slaves so much? idiotic or what? You can mention the term slavery or enslavement once, then that is enough you stupid baboons! during the rest of the compilation please refer to my ancestors as maroons because thats what they are! Ive got a forum and when I write these topics I wrote the word slave only once, the rest of it they are mentioned as maroons! stop claiming the damn name slave! every black people i come across are anxious and happy to pin the name slave on their ancestors. no-wonder on the internet whites and other none blacks are happy to tease us and call us slaves. every damn race was in slavery but with us its like a compliment to keep writing about our maroons as slaves.

just simple write that they were taken into enslavement, and then each time you refer to them you use the name maroons, ofcourse blacks not going to do that we too happy bearing the name and keeping it as some proud entitlement. notice how you refer to the indians them as arawaks, u mentioned them once as being slaves, then the rest of the time they are arawaks, you idiot!

why couldnt u have done the same for my black ancestors out of respect?

Dec 9, 2010 1:24pm [ 3 ]

Why Hello, My Name Is Jaqell I Come From Jamaica And I Was Reading This Aritcal You Guys Put Up And I Just Wanted To Say YOU GUYS ARE LIEING ! None Of This Is True! I'm 102 Years Old! I've Lived Here My Whole Life K?

Jordan KaYocee Hunt
Feb 15, 2011 7:06pm [ 4 ]

@Vevine Yes when we use the term "slave" over and over again we do become redundant. you should watch what you say though calling us black people baboons, because we are not that. but "Maroon" is just as bad. the spanish called the native people that refering to them as "Wild" that is what that means. Thats my voice!

Epiphany Arthur
Mar 10, 2011 10:51am [ 5 ]


Jun 13, 2011 10:35pm [ 6 ]

Name calling is absolutely inappropriate and directly speaks to one's ignorance. It is common knowledge that our African ancestors came to Jamaica as slaves! I am not offended by the word 'slave'; the act of slavery is where the offense lies. We should not deny or forget our history to ensure that we do not repeat them. Omitting the word 'slave' does not change the fact that our African ancestors were enslaved.

Jun 29, 2011 10:19pm [ 7 ]

Please note that the Maroons are Jamaican settlers. They are offsprings of African slaves brought to the Island by Spain and the British to cultivate the banana and sugar cane plantations. There are many Maroons in Jamaica to this day but they are not recognised and treated as they should or as the law dictated they should. Maroons are strong willed black people with the greatest bone structure and the blackest andmost glorious hair one ever saw.While Spain manage to kill Arawaks Indians the Maroons fought back especially against the British, and to this day remain independent. Maroons can be found in St. Mary and St Andrews. Like the American Indians the Maroons were given their own areas to live and cultivate and to be freed of all taxes. Unfortunately we fail to acknowledge them.

Hailee Chappell
Nov 30, 2011 10:49am [ 8 ]

Great website! I will definitely recomend this page for anybody looking for history or anything on Jamaica. Job very well done :)

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