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Jamaica and Britain

Jamaica, writes Morris Cargill, has been a British possession since the times of Cromwell.

English map of Jamaica, 1600sWithin its small area of 4,470 square miles, Jamaica contains many of the world’s races and exemplifies a considerable number of its problems. Here may be studied in miniature and at close quarters some of the more agitating social and political stresses of our day.

As everyone knows, Jamaica was discovered by Columbus during the course of his second voyage in 1494, and for the following century and a half remained under Spanish rule. The Spaniards called it Sant’ Jago, but the name did not stick, and eventually the island reverted to its present name, which is a corruption of the Arawak Xaymaca, the Isle of Springs.

The Spaniards made no consistent effort to develop the interior of the island; their interests lay chiefly in the discovery of gold and silver, in which the Central American area proved far richer. After desultory digging in the few parts of Jamaica that seemed promising, they found nothing but some low-yielding copper and iron ores, and their mines were largely abandoned. Jamaica’s geographical position, however, made it an important strategic base on the Spanish Main.

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