Jamaican history

1422 WORDS

jamaican history

Jamaica: History, Government, People, Religion

     Jamaica is a tropical island, located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. Around the coastlines are beautiful beaches with crystal clear blue-green water. In some respects, this is the majority of what people know about Jamaica. In this orientation text you will better understand Jamaica's history, the people who live there, the many different religions, geography, and governments that have ruled the land.
     The land of Jamaica is very small. The total land mass area of the island is 4,243 square miles. Stretching 146 miles from east to west and at its furthest points north to south, approximately 51 miles (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 670). Within this area, the land is largely mountainous with an average elevation of 15,000 feet (Encyclopedia Americana, 200, P 670). These mountains mainly consist of limestone, where in the middle of the country the terrain is extreme and mostly inaccessible. Within this extreme area are high plateaus, underground caverns, and deep circular basins. This area is what the local people call "cockpits" (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 670). The highest point in Jamaica is Blue Mountain Peak which stands 7,402 feet. Jamaican climate is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The capital of Jamaica is Kingston.
     The history of Jamaica is extremely jaded with disease, buccaneering, and slavery. First discovered by Europeans in 1494, Columbus stopped on Jamaica on his second trip to the "New World" and encountered the indigenous Arawaks (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 672). Later colonized by Spain in 1509, the land was abandoned when the lack of abundance of silver and gold was discovered. The indigenous Arawaks were overwhelmed with European disease and died out (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, 672). These times will be some of the most peaceful times in Jamaican history. Buccaneers used Jamaica as a trade center for booty seized from different galleons. Soon following, England will seize as much of Spain's Caribbean land as possible.
     The English captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655. With the indigenous people gone, and Spain being overthrown, all the imported African slaves revolted. Renegade slaves were called "Maroons." The Maroons waged war against there new governing country for nearly 100 years until a peace treaty was signed in 1738 (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 671). This era in Jamaican history is arguably the worst of all times of turmoil in Jamaican history.
     By the early 18th century, with the peace treaty in place, Jamaica began to build vast amounts of sugar plantations. Sugar became the main export to England. Second, and not far behind, was slave trade. Jamaica's location in the heart of the Caribbean Sea made it an ideal port for harboring slaves until they were needed to sell. This enabled Jamaica to be one of the British crown's most lucrative assets (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 673).
     Things changed with the British Parliament's abolishment of the slave trade in 1833. Freed slaves became independent farmers or employees of surviving sugar plantations. The government also changed from an elected British assembly to a governor-controlled crown colony enacted in 1866 and run for 75 years. During this political change, sugar industry slowed and the emergence of the banana industry became Jamaica's main export (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 673). Jamaica formed a two party system in its changes. The People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) would alternate rule for the 40 years. In 1953, Jamaica inaugurated a ministerial system of government. Within this system the Federation of the West Indies was created in 1958, with Jamaica as its largest member. Jamaica's true independence came four years later with its withdrawal from the federation.
     The people of Jamaica consist of 90% black African descent. (Academic American Encyclopedia, 1998, P 352). In 2003, the population of Jamaica was 2,633,600; with a birth rate of 12.9/1000 people (Stat, 2003). Roughly 65% of Jamaica's people are between the ages of 15-65. The life expectancy of males in Jamaica is 73 years and for females, slightly longer of 77 years (Stat, 2003).
     Education has become a very important part of Jamaican life. Jamaica boasts a literacy rate of 85% and education is free at schools receiving government grants. Most young Jamaicans attend primary school and more

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