Events: Devolopment of Port Royal
A Period of Transition in the Caribbean

Before the 17th Century, the Spanish had a virtual monopoly on colonies in the Caribbean, said David Geggus, a UF history professor. The Spanish were in fast decline and the English, French and Dutch began staking their claims during this period. The taking of Jamaica by force from the Spanish by the British was a main example of Spain's shrinking prestige.

In the second half of the century the dominant theme is the introduction of sugar cultivation, he said.

Note: This audio is from Ida Altman, a professor of history at the University of Florida.

"It created a level of wealth that the region hadn't previously known," he said.

This shift in agriculture had a monumental effect on the Slave Trade, he said.

"Ninety percent of the Africans who came to the Americas came in the 200 years after the middle of 17th century, as opposed to the 200 years before that point," Geggus said.

Superb Harbor

Portrait of Port Royal

Port Royal first gained attention because of its geographic location, at the end of an isthmus, opposite the mainland, Geggus said. It spent its early years, after the English takeover, as a frontier settlement.

Port Royal also has one the deepest natural harbors in the world. The harbor accommadated many ships and provided a place for the English to repair their vessels in the area.

Shortly after Jamaica was captured, the English expected the Spanish to come and try to retake it, Geggus said. Given this fear, the British attracted the Buccaneers to Port Royal, and encouraged them to raid and pillage non-British ships. In turn, they also acted as the island's defense and intelligence-gathering mechanism, because the British had not dedicated a regular army to the port.

Port Royal was the ideal atmosphere for the Buccaneers. They lived freely, and they had the support of the British. The port was also in a strategic position. The Buccaneers could launch their attacks in any direction, because surrounding enemy territory was relatively close and Port Royal was in the center of it all.

For more information on the Bucanaeers and thier exploits view Buccaneers.