The History of Port Royal, Jamaica

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The History of Port Royal, Jamaica

The History Of Port Royal, Jamaica

1. Port Royal is a town on the southern coast of Jamaica. It was first inhabited by the Spanish, but attacked and captured by the English in 1655. Because of its good and natural harbor and good position, Port Royal quickly became a major safe place for pirates and buccaneers, who were made welcome because of the need for defense. Port Royal was never quite the same after a 1692 earthquake, but there is still a town there today.

2. In 1655, England sent a fleet of ships to the Caribbean under the command of Admirals Penn and Venables for the purpose of capturing Hispaniola and the town of Santo Domingo. The Spanish defenses there proved too challenging, but the invaders did not want to return to England empty-handed, so they attacked and captured the lightly protected and lowly populated island of Jamaica instead. The English began construction of a fort on a natural harbor on the southern shores of Jamaica. The town that appeared there was, at first, named Point Cagway, but later changed to Port Royal in 1660.

3. The administrators of the town were worried that the Spanish could re-take Jamaica. Fort Charles on the harbor was operational and formidable, and there were four other smaller forts spread around the town, but there was little manpower to truly defend the city in the event of an attack. They began inviting pirates and buccaneers to come and set up shop there, therefore assuring that there would be a endless supply of ships and veteran fighting men on hand.They even contacted the infamous Brethren of the Coast, an organization of pirates and buccaneers. The deal was good for both the pirates and the town, which no longer feared attacks from the Spanish or other naval organizations.

4. It soon became clear that Port Royal was the perfect place for privates and privateers. It had a great deepwater natural harbor for protecting ships at anchor and it was close to Spanish shipping lanes and ports. Once it started to gain fame as a pirate safe place, the town quickly changed, it filled up brothels, taverns and drinking halls. Merchants who were willing to buy goods from pirates soon set up shop. Before long, Port Royal was the busiest port in the Americas[plural, reffering to the other Americas in the world.], largely run and operated by pirates and buccaneers.

These are some of the Port Royal ruins after the earthquake.

7. Today, Port Royal is a small Jamaican coastal fishing village. It retains very little of its former glory. Some old buildings are still intact, and it’s worth a trip for history viewing. It is a valuable archaeological site, however, and digs in the old harbor continue to turn up interesting items. With increased popularity in the Age of Piracy, Port Royal is aiming to undergo a change of sorts, with theme parks, museums and other attractions being built and planned.

5. The booming business done by pirates and privateers in the Caribbean soon led to other industries. Port Royal soon became a trading center for slaves, sugar and raw materials such as wood. Smuggling boomed, as Spanish ports in the New World were officially closed to foreigners but represented a huge market for African slaves and goods manufactured in Europe. Because it was a rough-and-tumble outpost, Port Royal had a loose attitude towards religions, and soon was home to Anglicans, Jews, Quakers, Puritans, Presbyterians and Catholics. By 1690, Port Royal was as large and important a town as Boston and many of the local merchants were quite wealthy.

6. It all came crashing down on June 7, 1692. That day, a massive earthquake shook Port Royal, dumping most of it into the harbor. About 5,000 died in the earthquake or shortly thereafter of injuries or disease. The city was ruined. Looting was rampant, and for a time all order broke down. Many thought that the city had been singled out for punishment by God for its wickedness. Some called those people idiots. An effort was made to rebuild the city, but it was devastated once again in 1703 by a fire. It was repeatedly hit by hurricanes and even more earthquakes in following years, and by 1774 it was more or less a quiet village.

This is the city while under the harbor.

This is Port Royal in it's prime.

By: Michael Brown

Bibliography:Bing.comThe resource packet paper


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