History History to IndependenceSighted by Christopher Columbus in 1494, Jamaica was conquered and settled in 1509 by Spaniardsunder a license from Columbuss son. Spanish exploitation decimated the native Arawaks. The islandremained Spanish until 1655, when Admiral William Penn and Robert Venables captured it; it wasformally ceded to England in 1670, but the local European population obtained a degree of autonomy.Jamaica prospered from the wealth brought by buccaneers, notably Sir Henry Morgan, to Port Royal, thecapital; in 1692, however, much of the city sank into the sea during an earthquake, and Spanish Townbecame the new capital.A huge, mostly African, slave population grew up around the sugarcane plantations in the 18th cent.,when Jamaica was a leading world sugar producer. Freed and escaped slaves, sometimes aided by themaroons (slaves who had escaped to remote areas after Spain lost control of Jamaica), succeeded inorganizing frequent uprisings against the European landowners. The sugar industry declined in the 19thcent., partly because of the abolition of slavery in 1833 (effective 1838) and partly because of theelimination in 1846 of the imperial preference tariff for colonial products entering the British market.Economic hardship was the prime motive behind the Morant Bay rebellion by freedmen in 1865. TheBritish ruthlessly quelled the uprising and also forced the frightened legislature to surrender its powers;Jamaica became a crown colony.Poverty and economic decline led many blacks to seek temporary work in neighboring Caribbean areasand in the United States; many left the island permanently, emigrating to England, Canada, and theUnited States. Indians were imported to meet the labor shortage on the plantations after the slaves werefreed, and agriculture was diversified to lessen dependence on sugar exports. A new constitution in 1884marked the initial revival of local autonomy for Jamaica.Despite labor and other reforms, black riots recurred, notably those of 1938, which were caused mainlyby unemployment and resentment against British racial policies. Jamaican blacks had been considerablyinfluenced by the theories of black nationalism promulgated by the American expatriate Marcus Garvey.A royal commission investigating the 1938 riots recommended an increase of economic developmentfunds and a faster restoration of representative government for Jamaica. In 1944 universal adult suffragewas introduced, and a new constitution provided for a popularly elected house of representatives. An Independent NationBy 1958, Jamaica became a key member of the British-sponsored West Indies Federation. The fact thatJamaica received only one third of the representation in the federation, despite its having more than halfthe land area and population of the grouping, bred resentment; a campaign by the nationalist laborleader Sir Alexander Bustamante led to a 1961 decision, by popular referendum, to withdraw from thefederation. The following year Jamaica became an independent member of the Commonwealth.Bustamante, leader of the JLP, became the first prime minister of independent Jamaica. The partycontinued in power under Donald B. Sangster after the 1967 elections; he died in office and wassucceeded by Hugh Shearer.In 1972 the PNP won an impressive victory, and Michael Manley became prime minister. Although thePNP administration worked effectively to promote civil liberties and reduce illiteracy, economic problemsproved more difficult. In 1976 the PNP won decisively after a violent election contest between the twoparties. The PNP continued to promote socialist policies, nationalizing businesses and strengthening tiesto Cuba. Lack of foreign investment and aid continued to hurt the economy.
In 1980 the JLP returned to power, with the moderate Edward Seaga as prime minister. Seagasadministration favored privatization, distanced itself from Cuba, attracted foreign investment, stimulatedtourism, and won substantial U.S. aid. However, two major hurricanes (1980, 1988) during Seagastenure set back prospects for substantial economic progress. In the 1989 elections the PNP ousted theJLP, and Manley returned as prime minister; he chose to continue the policy directions taken by Seaga.Manley was replaced by P. J. Patterson in 1992. The following year Patterson and the PNP werereturned to office in a landslide. Patterson led his PNP government to a third term in 1997 and a fourthterm in 2002, although the PNP majority was reduced in 2002. Patterson retired as prime minister in2006 and was succeeded by the PNPs Portia Simpson-Miller, who became the first woman to hold theoffice. In the Sept., 2007, parliamentary elections, the PNP narrowly lost to the JLP, now led by BruceGolding, who became prime minister.Historical People:Manley, Norman WashingtonManley, Norman Washington, 1893–1969, prime minister of Jamaica (1959–62); father of MichaelManley. Of Irish and African descent, he was educated at Oxford and became an internationally knownlawyer. He founded the moderately socialist Peoples National party in 1938, and, with his cousin,Alexander Bustamante, dominated Jamaican politics for several decades. He served as chief minister ofJamaica (1955–59) before being designated prime minister. He pushed land reform and encouragedeconomic growth, especially in the bauxite and tourist industries. He was the architect of the short-livedWest Indies Federation (1958–62; see under West Indies).Manley, Michael NormanManley, Michael Norman, 1924–97, prime minister of Jamaica (1972–80, 1989–92); son of NormanManley. A leader of the socialist Peoples National party, he was first elected to parliament in 1967.Winning a landslide victory in 1972, he shifted Jamaican politics to the left, establishing close relations toCuba, nationalizing industry, and denouncing U.S. imperialism. He was reelected in 1976, but in 1980lost to conservative Edward Seaga. Manley was returned to power in 1989, this time leading a moremoderate government and encouraging foreign investment. Following serious illness, he resigned in1992.Garvey, MarcusGarvey, Marcus, 1887–1940, American proponent of black nationalism, b. Jamaica. At the age of 14,Garvey went to work as a printers apprentice. After leading (1907) an unsuccessful printers strike inJamaica, he edited several newspapers in Costa Rica and Panama. During a period in London he tooklaw classes and became interested in African history and black nationalism. His concern for the problems
of blacks led him to found (1914) the Universal Negro Improvement Association and in 1916 he moved toNew York City and opened a branch in Harlem. The UNIA was an organization designed “to promote thespirit of race pride.” Broadly, its goals were to foster worldwide unity among all blacks and to establishthe greatness of the African heritage. The organization quickly spread in black communities throughoutthe United States, the Caribbean, and Central America, and soon had thousands of members.Garvey addressed himself to the lowest classes of blacks and rejected any notion of integration.Convinced that blacks could not secure their rights in countries where they were a minority race, heurged a “back to Africa” movement. In Africa, he said, an autonomous black state could be established,possessing its own culture and civilization, free from the domination of whites. Garvey was the mostinfluential black leader of the early 1920s. His brilliant oratory and his newspaper, Negro World, broughthim millions of followers. His importance declined, however, when his misuse of funds intended toestablish a steamship company that would serve members of the African diaspora, the Black Star Line,resulted in a mail fraud conviction. He entered jail in 1925 and was deported to Jamaica two years later.From this time on his influence decreased, and he died in relative obscurity.Prime Ministers of JamaicaPrime ministers 4 Jul 1959 - 29 Apr 1962 Norman Washington Manley(s.a.) PNP29 Apr 1962 - 23 Feb 1967 Sir William Alexander Bustamante(s.a.) JLPFeb 1964 - 23 Feb 1967 Donald Burns Sangster (b. 1911 - d.1967) JLP (acting for Bustamante)23 Feb 1967 - 11 Apr 1967 Donald Burns Sangster(s.a.) JLP (from 6 Apr 1967, Sir Donald Burns Sangster)11 Apr 1967 - 2 Mar 1972 Hugh Lawson Shearer (b. 1923 - d.2004) JLP 2 Mar 1972 - 1 Nov 1980 Michael Norman Manley (1st time) (b. 1924 - d.1997) PNP 1 Nov 1980 - 10 Feb 1989 Edward Philip George Seaga (b.1930) JLP10 Feb 1989 - 30 Mar 1992 Michael Norman Manley (2nd time)(s.a.) PNP30 Mar 1992 - 30 Mar 2006 Percival Noel James Patterson (b.1935) PNP30 Mar 2006 - 11 Sep 2007 Portia Simpson Miller (f) (b.1945) PNP11 Sep 2007 - 23 Oct 2011 Bruce Golding (b.1947) JLP23 Oct 2011 - Andrew Holness