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The British Invasion 1665

The British Invasion

On May 10th in the year 1655, English attack forces led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables, successfully seized control of Jamaica from the Spaniards. This heralded the start of centuries of Jamaican history plagued by African slavery, British colonisation and governance and Indentureship.

The earliest periods of English settlement in Jamaica drew much attention to piracy, buccaneering and privateering. Pirates and buccaneers were described as wild, rough and ruthless sea rovers who looted bounties of gold, silver and jewels which they took to Port Royal. Port Royal under the buccaneer’s leadership within a decade and a half developed the reputation for being the ‘wealthiest and wickedest city in the world’. The greatest buccaneer captain of all was Henry Morgan. He started out as a pirate and later became a privateer. He mercilessly raided Spanish fleets and colonies developing vast wealth with which he used to develop one of Jamaica’s largest sugar plantations. Morgan was knighted by king Charles II of England and was later appointed Lieutenant governor of Jamaica in 1673, a position which lasted until his death in 1688.

The slave trade

Following the path laid out by the previous colonisers of Jamaica, the British sought to excavate great wealth from their colonies. This was done particularly through expansive sugarcane cultivation on sugar estates or plantations worked by large gangs of African slave labourers who toiled for long hours under the searing Caribbean sun to provide sugar in the teahouses of London.

These slaves were imported primarily from west Africa along the Gold Coast, they were often kidnapped from their homes or sold to British ship captains who traded these enslaved Africans for gun powder and silver. Once acquired these slaves were branded with the insignia of the ship’s captain and then stocked on the slave ships They were chained and tied together, crammed into the lowest decks of the ships tightly packed like sardines with little or no room to move.  The had to pass their excrement in the same place in which they slept or were fed. The conditions they endured during the Middle Passage from the Gold Coast to the Caribbean where deplorable. These unsanitary living conditions sparked the emergence of several diseases which coupled with the cruelty of the European sailors and the harsh treatment of the slaves claimed the lives of many. Additionally, some of the slaves on the few occasions they were taken on the deck of the ship committed suicide by jumping overboard. This they believed would ensure the repatriation of their souls back to their Motherland; Africa.  Upon arrival in the Caribbean the slaves who survived the journey across the Atlantic were prepared for sale to plantation owners on the island. They were washed in the seas, oiled, given more food rations to fatten them and alcohol to make them merry. They were then auctioned off to the highest bidder and taken to work on the plantations for which they were brought. Through this many family units and tribal ties were broken.

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