What Was the Role of Slavery and Slave Rebellions in Jamaica’s Past?
What first comes across your mind when you think of the New World? Personally I think of the Caribbean and its flourishing coral islands with white shores, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 15th century and proclaimed Spanish colonies. Jamaica was one of those tropical islands in the Caribbean. After the years of severe struggle, England defeated Spain and won the island of Jamaica in 1655. Development of plantation system on Jamaica’s fertile lands required a great deal of manpower, and the Englishmen forced the Indian tribes to toil on the fields of sugar cane. Unfamiliar with hard toil and diseases, the Indians soon became extinct (Black, Clinton V. History of Jamaica).
That was the reason why the black slaves from Africa were brought to work on the sugar cane plantations. Jamaica’s largest towns, Port Royal and Kingston turned into the centers of slave trade. Slavery grew together with plantation system. By the end of the 18th century, the number of black slaves exceeded the number of white populace. Jamaica became one of the largest suppliers of sugar cane in the world. But brutal attitude, severe punishments and hard toil influenced black slaves to rebel against their planters. During a great number of bloody revolts, the slaves fought for freedom (Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies). They deserted fields and founded their own settlements. Production of sugar cane was the main source of income for the island, and it inevitably decreased, due to the lack of labour force. What’s more, Latin America’s tense situation around the slavery was growing, and at last the authorities of Jamaica had to proclaim abolition of slavery in 1834.
The economics of Jamaica had to survive through hard times, until the businessmen from the USA came and invested their assets into agricultural development of the island in 1860s (Kurlansky, Mark. A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny). Banana, coffee and cacao plantations replaced sugar cane fields. Banana farming grew fast and so did the export. The presence of American companies (such as United Fruit Company) became a stimulation for the economy of Jamaica in the 19th century.
1. Black, Clinton V. 1983. History of Jamaica. London: Collins Educational
2. Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies(Cornell University Press, 1983)
3. Kurlansky, Mark. 1992. A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny. Addison-Wesley Publishing.
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