The History of Jamaica
Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island. It was inhabited by Arawak natives before it was first sighted by the second voyage of Christopher Columbus on May 5, 1494. Columbus himself was stranded on Jamaica from 1503 to 1504 during his fourth voyage. The Spanish settled in Jamaica in 1509 and held the island against many privateer raids from their main city, now called Spanish Town, which served as capital of Jamaica from its founding in 1534 until 1872. In 1655 Jamaica was conquered by the English, although the Spanish did not relinquish their claim to the island until 1670.
Jamaica became a base of operations for privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan, operating from the main English settlement Port Royal. In return these privateers kept the other colonial powers from attacking the island. Following the destruction of Port Royal in the great earthquake of 1692 refugees settled across the bay in Kingston which by 1716 had become the biggest town in Jamaica and became the capital city in 1872. Until the early 19th century Africans were captured, kidnapped, and forced into slavery to work on plantations when sugarcane became the most important export of the island.
Many slaves had arrived in Jamaica by means of the Atlantic slave trade during the same time enslaved Africans arrived in North America. During this time there were many racial tensions, and Jamaica had one of the highest instances of slave uprisings of any Caribbean island. After the British crown abolished slavery in 1834, the Jamaicans began working toward independence. Since independence in 1962 there have been political and economic disturbances, as well as a number of strong political leaders. The Governor of Nova Scotia, Sir John Wentworth, attempted to convert the Maroons to Christianity. Many immigrated to Sierra Leone in 1800.