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|Jamaica and Dependencies|
|Colony of England(1655–1707)|
Colony of Great Britain(1707–1801)
Colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801-1922)
Colony of the United Kingdom(1922–1962)
Indus Uterque Serviet Uni
"The two Indians will serve as one"
God Save the King/Queen
Location of Jamaica
|Languages||English, Jamaican Patois, Spanish|
|Religion||Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Bedwardism, Rastafarianism, Traditional African religion, Afro-American religion|
|Government||Colony under Parliamentary republic(1655–1660)|
Colony under Constitutional monarchy(1660–1962)
|Head of State|
|•||1655–1658||Lord ProtectorOliver Cromwell|
|•||1952–1962||Queen Elizabeth II|
|•||Upper house||Legislative Council|
|•||Lower house||House of Representatives|
|•||Established||10 May 1655|
Turks and Caicos
15 June 1852
18 July 1670
4 April 1873
Turks and Caicos
14 July 1860
2 October 1884
4 July 1959
4 July 1959
|•||Independence||6 August 1962|
|•||1943||12,114 km2 (4,677 sq mi)|
|Density||103/km2 (267/sq mi)|
|Density||130/km2 (337/sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Belize|
Cayman Islands (UK)
Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)
Jamaica was an English colony from 1655 (when it was captured by the English from Spain) or 1670 (when Spain formally ceded Jamaica to the English), and a British Colony from 1707 until 1962, when it became independent. Jamaica became a Crown colony in 1866.
Main article: Invasion of Jamaica
In late 1654, English leader Oliver Cromwell launched the Western Design armada against Spain's colonies in the Caribbean. In April 1655, General Robert Venables led the armada in an attack on Spain's fort at Santo Domingo, Hispaniola. However, the Spanish repulsed this poorly-executed attack, known as the Siege of Santo Domingo, and the English troops were soon decimated by disease.
Weakened by fever and looking for an easy victory following their defeat at Santo Domingo, the English force then sailed for Jamaica, the only Spanish West Indies island that did not have new defensive works. In May 1655, around 7,000 English soldiers landed near Jamaica's Spanish Town capital. The English invasion force soon overwhelmed the small number of Spanish troops (at the time, Jamaica's entire population only numbered around 2,500).
In the following years, Spain repeatedly attempted to recapture Jamaica, and in response in 1657 the English Governor of Jamaica invited buccaneers to base themselves at Port Royal on Santiago, to help defend against Spanish attacks. Spain never recaptured Jamaica, losing the Battle of Ocho Rios in 1657 and the Battle of Rio Nuevo in 1658. For England, Jamaica was to be the 'dagger pointed at the heart of the Spanish Empire,' although in fact it was a possession of little economic value then.
Early British colonisation
Cromwell increased the island's white population by sending indentured servants and prisoners captured in battles with the Irish and Scots, as well as some common criminals. This practice was continued under Charles II, and the white population was also augmented by immigrants from the North American mainland and other islands, as well as by the English buccaneers. But tropical diseases kept the number of whites well under 10,000 until about 1740.
Although the slave population in the 1670s and 1680s never exceeded roughly 9,500, by the end of the seventeenth century imports of slaves increased the black population to at least three times the number of whites. Thereafter, Jamaica's blacks did not increase significantly in number until well into the eighteenth century, in part because the slave ships coming from the west coast of Africa preferred to unload at the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the number of slaves in Jamaica did not exceed 45,000, but by 1800 it had increased to over 300,000.
Beginning with the Stuart monarchy's appointment of a civil governor to Jamaica in 1661, political patterns were established that lasted well into the twentieth century. The second governor, Lord Windsor, brought with him in 1662 a proclamation from the king giving Jamaica's non-slave populace the rights of English citizens, including the right to make their own laws. Although he spent only ten weeks in Jamaica, Lord Windsor laid the foundations of a governing system that was to last for two centuries: a Crown-appointed governor acting with the advice of a nominated council in the legislature. The legislature consisted of the governor and an elected but highly unrepresentative House of Assembly.
England gained formal possession of Jamaica from Spain in 1670 through the Treaty of Madrid. Removing the pressing need for constant defense against Spanish attack, this change served as an incentive to planting. For years, however, the planter-dominated Jamaica House of Assembly was in continual conflict with the various governors and the Stuart kings; there were also contentious factions within the assembly itself. For much of the 1670s and 1680s, Charles II and James II and the assembly feuded over such matters as the purchase of slaves from ships not run by the royal English trading company. The last Stuart governor, the Duke of Albemarle, who was more interested in treasure hunting than in planting, turned the planter oligarchy out of office. After the duke's death in 1688, the planters, who had fled Jamaica to London, succeeded in lobbying James II to order a return to the pre-Albemarle political arrangement and the revolution that brought William III and Mary to the throne in 1689 confirmed the local control of Jamaican planters belonging to the assembly. This settlement also improved the supply of slaves and resulted in more protection, including military support, for the planters against foreign competition. This was of particular importance during the Anglo-French War in the Caribbean from 1689 to 1713.
Early in the eighteenth century, the Maroons took a heavy toll on the British troops and local militia sent against them in the interior; their rebellion ended, however, with the signing of peace agreements in 1738. The sugar monoculture and slave-worked plantation society spread across Jamaica throughout the eighteenth century.
Main article: Jamaican Maroons § History
When the British captured Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish colonists fled, leaving a large number of African slaves. These former Spanish slaves created three Palenques, or settlements. Former slaves organised under the leadership of Juan de Serras allied with the Spanish guerrillas on the western end of the Cockpit Country, while those under Juan de Bolas established themselves in modern-day Clarendon Parish and served as a "black militia" for the English. The third chose to join those who had previously escaped from the Spanish to live and intermarry with the Arawak people. Each group of Maroons established distinct independent communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica. They survived by subsistence farming and periodic raids of plantations. Over time, the Maroons came to control large areas of the Jamaican interior.
Jamaica's pirate economy
Spanish resistance continued for some years after the English conquest, in some cases with the help of the Jamaican Maroons, but Spain never succeeded in retaking the island. The English established their main coastal town at Port Royal. Under early English rule, Jamaica became a haven of privateers, buccaneers, and occasionally outright pirates: Christopher Myngs, Edward Mansvelt, and most famously, Henry Morgan.
In addition to being unable to retake their land, Spain was no longer able to provide their colonies in the New World with manufactured goods on a regular basis. The progressive irregularity of annual Spanish fleets, combined with an increasing desperation by colonies for manufactured goods, allowed Port Royal to flourish and by 1659, two hundred houses, shops, and warehouses surrounded the fort. Merchants and privateers worked together in what is now referred to as "forced trade." Merchants would sponsor trading endeavors with the Spanish while sponsoring privateers to attack Spanish ships and rob Spanish coastal towns. While the merchants most certainly had the upper hand, the privateers were an integral part of the operation. Nuala Zahedieh, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, wrote, "Both opponents and advocates of so-called ‘forced trade’ declared the town’s fortune had the dubious distinction of being founded entirely on the servicing of the privateers’ needs and highly lucrative trade in prize commodities." She added, "A report that the 300 men who accompanied Henry Morgan to Portobello in 1668 returned to the town with a prize to spend of at least £60 each (two or three times the usual annual plantation wage) leaves little doubt that they were right.”
The forced trade became almost a way of life in Port Royal. Michael Pawson and David Busseret wrote "...one way or the other nearly all the propertied inhabitants of Port Royal seem to have an interest in privateering." Forced trade was rapidly making Port Royal one of the wealthiest communities in the English territories of North America, far surpassing any profit made from the production of sugarcane. Zahedieh wrote, "The Portobello raid [in 1668] alone produced plunder worth £75,000, more than seven times the annual value of the island’s sugar exports, which at Port Royal prices did not exceed £10,000 at this time."
An illustration of pre-1692 Port Royal
Henry Morgan, governor of Jamaica
English map from the 1600s
European colonies in the 18th century Caribbean
The 1692 earthquake and the collapse of Port Royal
Main article: 1692 Jamaica earthquake
On 7 June 1692, a violent earthquake struck Port Royal. Two-thirds of the town sank into the sea immediately after the main shock. According to Robert Renny in his 'An History of Jamaica' (1807): "All the wharves sunk at once, and in the space of two minutes, nine-tenths of the city were covered with water, which was raised to such a height, that it entered the uppermost rooms of the few houses which were left standing. The tops of the highest houses, were visible in the water, and surrounded by the masts of vessels, which had been sunk along with them."
Before the earthquake, the town consisted of 6,500 inhabitants living in about 2,000 buildings, many constructed of brick and with more than one storey, and all built on loose sand. During the shaking, the sand liquefied and the buildings, along with their occupants, appeared to flow into the sea.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, it was common to ascribe the destruction to divine retribution on the people of Port Royal for their sinful ways. Members of the Jamaica Council declared: "We are become by this an instance of God Almighty's severe judgement."  This view of the disaster was not confined to Jamaica; in Boston, the Reverend Cotton Mather said in a letter to his uncle: "Behold, an accident speaking to all our English America."
After the earthquake, the town was partially rebuilt. But the colonial government was relocated to Spanish Town, which had been the capital under Spanish rule. Port Royal was devastated by a fire in 1703 and a hurricane in 1722. Most of the sea trade moved to Kingston. By the late 18th century, Port Royal was largely abandoned.
Jamaica's sugar boom
In the mid-17th century, sugarcane had been brought into the British West Indies by the Dutch, from Brazil. Upon landing in Jamaica and other islands, they quickly urged local growers to change their main crops from cotton and tobacco to sugar cane. With depressed prices of cotton and tobacco, due mainly to stiff competition from the North American colonies, the farmers switched, leading to a boom in the Caribbean economies. Sugar was quickly snapped up by the British, who used it in cakes and to sweeten teas.
In the eighteenth century, sugar replaced piracy as Jamaica's main source of income. The sugar industry was labour-intensive and the English brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to Jamaica. By 1832, the median-size plantation in Jamaica had about 150 slaves, and nearly one of every four bondsmen lived on units that had at least 250 slaves. After slavery was abolished in the 1830s, sugar plantations used a variety of forms of labour including workers imported from India under contracts of indenture.
Sugar cane cutters in Jamaica, 1880
Sugar cane cutters in Jamaica, 1891
First Maroon War
Main article: First Maroon War
Starting in the late seventeenth century, there were periodic skirmishes between the British and the Maroons, alongside occasional slave revolts. In 1673 one such revolt in St. Ann's Parish of 200 slaves created the separate group of Leeward Maroons. These Maroons united with a group of Madagascars who had survived the shipwreck of a slave ship and formed their own maroon community in St. George's parish. Several more rebellions strengthened the numbers of this Leeward group. Notably, in 1690 a revolt at Sutton's plantation, Clarendon of 400 slaves considerably strengthened the Leeward Maroons. In September 1728, the British sent more troops to Jamaica, changing the balance of power with the Windward Maroons.
The Leeward Maroons inhabited "cockpits," caves, or deep ravines that were easily defended, even against troops with superior firepower. Such guerrilla warfare and the use of scouts who blew the abeng (the cow horn, which was used as a trumpet) to warn of approaching British soldiers allowed the Maroons to evade, thwart, frustrate, and defeat the forces of an Empire.
In 1739–40, the British government in Jamaica recognised that it could not defeat the Maroons, so they came to an agreement with them instead. The Maroons were to remain in their five main towns (Accompong, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scott's Pass, Nanny Town), living under their own rulers and a British supervisor.
In exchange, they were asked to agree not to harbour new runaway slaves, but rather to help catch them. This last clause in the treaty naturally caused a split between the Maroons and the rest of the black population, although from time to time runaways from the plantations still found their way into Maroon settlements.
Another provision of the agreement was that the Maroons would serve to protect the island from invaders. The latter was because the Maroons were revered by the British as skilled warriors.
The person responsible for the compromise with the British was the Leeward Maroon leader, Cudjoe, a short, almost dwarf-like man who for years fought skillfully and bravely to maintain his people's independence. As he grew older, however, Cudjoe became increasingly disillusioned. He ran into quarrels with his lieutenants and with other Maroon groups. He felt that the only hope for the future was honorable peace with the enemy.
A year later, the even more rebellious Windward Maroons of Trelawny Town also agreed to sign a treaty under pressure from both white Jamaicans and the Leeward Maroons
Main article: Tacky's revolt
The colony's slaves, who outnumbered their white masters by a ratio of 20:1 in 1800, mounted over a dozen major slave conspiracies (the majority of which were organised by Coromantins), and uprisings during the 18th century, including Tacky's revolt in May 1760.
In that revolt, Tacky, a slave overseer on the Frontier plantation in Saint Mary Parish, led a group of enslaved Africans in taking over the Frontier and Trinity plantations while killing their enslavers. They then marched to the storeroom at Fort Haldane, where the munitions to defend the town of Port Maria were kept. After killing the storekeeper, Tacky and his men stole nearly 4 barrels of gunpowder and 40 firearms with shot, before marching on to overrun the plantations at Heywood Hall and Esher.
By dawn, hundreds of other slaves had joined Tacky and his followers. At Ballard's Valley, the rebels stopped to rejoice in their success. One slave from Esher decided to slip away and sound the alarm.Obeahmen (Caribbean witch doctors) quickly circulated around the camp dispensing a powder that they claimed would protect the men from injury in battle and loudly proclaimed that an Obeahman could not be killed. Confidence was high.
Soon there were 70 to 80 mounted militia on their way along with some Maroons from Scott's Hall, who were bound by treaty to suppress such rebellions. When the militia learned of the Obeahman's boast of not being able to be killed, an Obeahman was captured, killed and hung with his mask, ornaments of teeth and bone and feather trimmings at a prominent place visible from the encampment of rebels. Many of the rebels, confidence shaken, returned to their plantations. Tacky and 25 or so men decided to fight on.
Tacky and his men went running through the woods being chased by the Maroons and their legendary marksman, Davy. While running at full speed, Davy shot Tacky and cut off his head as evidence of his feat, for which he would be richly rewarded. Tacky's head was later displayed on a pole in Spanish Town until a follower took it down in the middle of the night. The rest of Tacky's men were found in a cave near Tacky Falls, having committed suicide rather than going back to slavery.
Second Maroon War
Main article: Second Maroon War
In 1795, the Second Maroon War was instigated when two Maroons were flogged by a black slave for allegedly stealing two pigs. When six Maroon leaders came to the British to present their grievances, the British took them as prisoners. This sparked an eight-month conflict, spurred by the fact that Maroons felt that they were being mistreated under the terms of Cudjoe's Treaty of 1739, which ended the First Maroon War.
The war lasted for five months as a bloody stalemate. The British 5,000 troops and militia outnumbered the Maroons ten to one, but the mountainous and forested topography of Jamaica proved ideal for guerrilla warfare. The Maroons surrendered in December 1795.
The treaty signed in December between Major General George Walpole and the Maroon leaders established that the Maroons would beg on their knees for the King's forgiveness, return all runaway slaves, and be relocated elsewhere in Jamaica. The governor of Jamaica ratified the treaty, but gave the Maroons only three days to present themselves to beg forgiveness on 1 January 1796. Suspicious of British intentions, most of the Maroons did not surrender until mid-March. The British used the contrived breach of treaty as a pretext to deport the entire Trelawny town Maroons to Nova Scotia. After a few years the Maroons were again deported to the new British settlement of Sierra Leone in West Africa.
The Baptist War
Main article: Baptist War
In 1831, enslaved Baptist preacher Samuel Sharpe led a strike among demanding more freedom and a working wage of "half the going wage rate." Upon refusal of their demands, the strike escalated into a full rebellion. The Baptist War, as it was known, became the largest slave uprising in the British West Indies, lasting 10 days and mobilised as many as 60,000 of Jamaica's 300,000 slave population.
The rebellion was suppressed with relative ease by British forces, under the control of Sir Willoughby Cotton. The reaction of the Jamaican Government and plantocracy was far more brutal. Approximately five hundred slaves were killed in total: 207 during the revolt and somewhere in the range between 310 and 340 slaves were killed through "various forms of judicial executions" after the rebellion was concluded, at times, for quite minor offences (one recorded execution indicates the crime being the theft of a pig; another, a cow). An 1853 account by Henry Bleby described how three or four simultaneous executions were commonly observed; bodies would be allowed to pile up until workhouse negroes carted the bodies away at night and bury them in mass graves outside town. The brutality of the plantocracy during the revolt is thought to have accelerated the process of emancipation, with initial measures beginning in 1833.
The road to emancipation
Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 Baptist War rebellion, the British Parliament held two inquiries. Their reports on conditions contributed greatly to the abolition movement and passage of the 1833 law to abolish slavery as of 1 August 1834, throughout the British Empire. The Jamaican slaves were bound (indentured) to their former owners' service, albeit with a guarantee of rights, until 1838 under what was called the Apprenticeship System.
The impact of emancipation
With the abolition of the slave trade in 1808 and slavery itself in 1834, however, the island's sugar- and slave-based economy faltered. The period after emancipation in 1834 initially was marked by a conflict between the plantocracy and elements in the Colonial Office over the extent to which individual freedom should be coupled with political participation for blacks. In 1840 the assembly changed the voting qualifications in a way that enabled a majority of blacks and people of mixed race (browns or mulattos) to vote. But neither change in the political system, nor abolition of slavery changed the planter's chief interest, which lay in the continued profitability of their estates, and they continued to dominate the elitist assembly. Nevertheless, at the end of the eighteenth century and in the early years of the nineteenth century, the Crown began to allow some Jamaicans—mostly local merchants, urban professionals, and artisans—into the appointed councils.
The Morant Bay Rebellion
Main article: Morant Bay Rebellion
Tensions resulted in the October 1865 Morant Bay rebellion led by Paul Bogle.
The rebellion was sparked on 7 October, when a black man was put on trial and imprisoned for allegedly trespassing on a long-abandoned plantation. During the proceedings, James Geoghegon, a black spectator, disrupted the trial, and in the police's attempts to seize him and remove him from the courthouse, a fight broke out between the police and other spectators. While pursuing Geoghegon, the two policeman were beaten with sticks and stones. The following Monday arrest warrants were issued for several men for rioting, resisting arrest, and assaulting the police. Among them was Baptist preacher Paul Bogle.
A few days later on 11 October, Mr. Paul Bogle marched with a group of protesters to Morant Bay. When the group arrived at the court house they were met by a small and inexperienced volunteer militia. The crowd began pelting the militia with rocks and sticks, and the militia opened fire on the group, killing seven black protesters before retreating.
Governor John Eyre sent government troops, under Brigadier-General Alexander Nelson, to hunt down the poorly armed rebels and bring Paul Bogle back to Morant Bay for trial. The troops met with no organised resistance, but regardless they killed blacks indiscriminately, most of whom had not been involved in the riot or rebellion: according to one soldier, "we slaughtered all before us… man or woman or child". In the end, 439 black Jamaicans were killed directly by soldiers, and 354 more (including Paul Bogle) were arrested and later executed, some without proper trials. Paul Bogle was executed "either the same evening he was tried or the next morning." Other punishments included flogging for over 600 men and women (including some pregnant women), and long prison sentences, with thousands of homes belonging to black Jamaicans were burned down without any justifiable reason.
George William Gordon, a Jamaican businessman and politician, who had been critical of Governor John Eyre and his policies, was later arrested by Governor John Eyre who believed he had been behind the rebellion. Despite having very little to do with it, Gordon was eventually executed. Though he was arrested in Kingston, he was transferred by Eyre to Morant Bay, where he could be tried under martial law. The execution and trial of Gordon via martial law raised some constitutional issues back in Britain, where concerns emerged about whether British dependencies should be ruled under the government of law, or through military license. The speedy trial saw Gordon hanged on 23 October, just two days after his trial had begun. He and William Bogle, Paul's brother, "were both tried together, and executed at the same time."
Decline of sugar industry
During most of the eighteenth century, a monocrop economy based on sugar production for export flourished. In the last quarter of the century, however, the Jamaican sugar economy declined as famines, hurricanes, colonial wars, and wars of independence disrupted trade. By the 1820s, Jamaican sugar had become less competitive with that from high-volume producers such as Cuba and production subsequently declined. By 1882 sugar output was less than half the level achieved in 1828. A major reason for the decline was the British Parliament's 1807 abolition of the slave trade, under which the transportation of slaves to Jamaica after 1 March 1808 was forbidden; the abolition of the slave trade was followed by the abolition of slavery in 1834 and full emancipation within four years. Unable to convert the ex-slaves into a sharecropping tenant class similar to the one established in the post-Civil War South of the United States, planters became increasingly dependent on wage labour and began recruiting workers abroad, primarily from India, China, and Sierra Leone. Many of the former slaves settled in peasant or small farm communities in the interior of the island, the "yam belt," where they engaged in subsistence and some cash crop farming.
The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of severe economic decline for Jamaica. Low crop prices, droughts, and disease led to serious social unrest, culminating in the Morant Bay rebellions of 1865. However, renewed British administration after the 1865 rebellion, in the form of Crown colony status, resulted in some social and economic progress as well as investment in the physical infrastructure. Agricultural development was the centrepiece of restored British rule in Jamaica. In 1868 the first large-scale irrigation project was launched. In 1895 the Jamaica Agricultural Society was founded to promote more scientific and profitable methods of farming. Also in the 1890s, the Crown Lands Settlement Scheme was introduced, a land reform program of sorts, which allowed small farmers to purchase two hectares or more of land on favourable terms.
Between 1865 and 1930, the character of landholding in Jamaica changed substantially, as sugar declined in importance. As many former plantations went bankrupt, some land was sold to Jamaican peasants under the Crown Lands Settlement whereas other cane fields were consolidated by dominant British producers, most notably by the British firm Tate and Lyle. Although the concentration of land and wealth in Jamaica was not as drastic as in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, by the 1920s the typical sugar plantation on the island had increased to an average of 266 hectares. But, as noted, smallscale agriculture in Jamaica survived the consolidation of land by sugar powers. The number of small holdings in fact tripled between 1865 and 1930, thus retaining a large portion of the population as peasantry. Most of the expansion in small holdings took place before 1910, with farms averaging between two and twenty hectares.
The rise of the banana trade during the second half of the nineteenth century also changed production and trade patterns on the island. Bananas were first exported in 1867, and banana farming grew rapidly thereafter. By 1890, bananas had replaced sugar as Jamaica's principal export. Production rose from 5 million stems (32 percent of exports) in 1897 to an average of 20 million stems a year in the 1920s and 1930s, or over half of domestic exports. As with sugar, the presence of American companies, like the well-known United Fruit Company in Jamaica, was a driving force behind renewed agricultural exports. The British also became more interested in Jamaican bananas than in the country's sugar. Expansion of banana production, however, was hampered by serious labour shortages. The rise of the banana economy took place amidst a general exodus of up to 11,000 Jamaicans a year.
Jamaica as a Crown Colony
In 1846 Jamaican planters, still reeling from the loss of slave labour, suffered a crushing blow when Britain passed the Sugar Duties Act, eliminating Jamaica's traditionally favoured status as its primary supplier of sugar. The Jamaica House of Assembly stumbled from one crisis to another until the collapse of the sugar trade, when racial and religious tensions came to a head during the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865. Although suppressed ruthlessly, the severe rioting so alarmed the planters that the two-centuries-old assembly voted to abolish itself and asked for the establishment of direct British rule.
In 1866 the new Crown colony government consisted of the Legislative Council and the executive Privy Council containing members of both chambers of the House of Assembly, but the Colonial Office exercised effective power through a presiding British governor. The council included a few handpicked prominent Jamaicans for the sake of appearance only. In the late nineteenth century, Crown colony rule was modified; representation and limited self-rule were reintroduced gradually into Jamaica after 1884. The colony's legal structure was reformed along the lines of English common law and county courts, and a constabulary force was established.
The smooth working of the Crown colony system was dependent on a good understanding and an identity of interests between the governing officials, who were British, and most of the nonofficial, nominated members of the Legislative Council, who were Jamaicans. The elected members of this body were in a permanent minority and without any influence or administrative power. The unstated alliance – based on shared color, attitudes, and interest – between the British officials and the Jamaican upper class was reinforced in London, where the West India Committee lobbied for Jamaican interests. Jamaica's white or near-white propertied class continued to hold the dominant position in every respect; the vast majority of the black population remained poor and unenfranchised.
Kingston, the new capital
Main article: Kingston,_Jamaica § History
In 1872, the government passed an act to transfer government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston.
Kingston had been founded as a refuge for survivors of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal. The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of Port Royal by the Nick Catania Pirate Fleet's fire in 1703. Surveyor John Goffe drew up a plan for the town based on a grid bounded by North, East, West and Harbour Streets. By 1716 it had become the largest town and the center of trade for Jamaica. The government sold land to people with the regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they owned in Port Royal, and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands north on the plains of Liguanea.
In 1755 the governor, Sir Charles Knowles, had decided to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston. It was thought by some to be an unsuitable location for the Assembly in proximity to the moral distractions of Kingston, and the next governor rescinded the Act. However, by 1780 the population of Kingston was 11,000, and the merchants began lobbying for the administrative capital to be transferred from Spanish Town, which was by then eclipsed by the commercial activity in Kingston.
The 1907 Kingston earthquake destroyed much of the city. Considered by many writers of that time one of the world's deadliest earthquakes, it resulted in the death of over eight hundred Jamaicans and destroyed the homes of over ten thousand more.
Horse-drawn carriages in Kingston, 1891
View of Kingston in 1907 showing damage caused by the earthquake.
Early 20th century
Main article: Marcus Garvey
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black activist and Trade Unionist, founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1914, one of Jamaica's first political parties in 1929, and a workers association in the early 1930s. Garvey also promoted the Back-to-Africa movement, which called for those of African descent to return to the homelands of their ancestors. Garvey, to no avail, pleaded with the colonial government to improve living conditions for indigenous peoples in the West Indies.  Garvey, a controversial figure, had been the target of a four-year investigation by the United States government. He was convicted of mail fraud in 1923 and had served most of a five-year term in an Atlanta penitentiary when he was deported to Jamaica in 1927. Garvey left the colony in 1935 to live in the United Kingdom, where he died heavily in debt five years later. He was proclaimed Jamaica's first national hero in the 1960s after Edward P.G. Seaga, then a government minister, arranged the return of his remains to Jamaica. In 1987 Jamaica petitioned the United States Congress to pardon Garvey on the basis that the federal charges brought against him were unsubstantiated and unjust.
Main article: Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement, an Abrahamic religion, was developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia.
Haile Selassie I was crowned as Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1930, a significant event in that Ethiopia was the only African country other than Liberia to be independent from colonialism and Haile Selassie was the only African leader accepted among the kings and queens of Europe. Over the next two years, three Jamaicans who all happened to be overseas at the time of the coronation each returned home and independently began, as street preachers, to proclaim the divinity of the newly crowned Emperor as the returned Christ.
First, in December 1930, Archibald Dunkley