The Caribbean island of Jamaica has had a far greater impact on the rest of the world than one would expect from a country with a population of under three million.

In the seventeenth century, for example, Jamaica was the world centre of piracy. From its capital of Port Royal, buccaneers led by Captain Henry Morgan plundered the Spanish Main, bringing such riches to the island that it became as wealthy as any of Europe's leading trading centres. In 1692, four years after Morgan's death, Port Royal disappeared into the Caribbean in an earthquake. Such a karmic sense of poetry is Jamaica.

A Rebellious Spirit
A piratic, rebellious spirit has been central to the attitude of Jamaicans ever since. This is clear in the lives of Nanny, the woman who led a successful slave revolt against the English redcoats in 1738; of Marcus Garvey, who became the first prophet of black self determination in the 1920s, founding the Black Star shipping line, intended to transport descendants of slaves back to Africa; and of Bob Marley, the Third World's first superstar, with his musical gospel of love and global unity.

Jamaica was known by its original settlers, the Arawak Indians, as the Island of Springs. And it is in the high country that Jamaica's unconscious resides: the primal Blue Mountains and hills are the repository of most of Jamaica's legends, a dream-like landscape that provides ample material for an arcane mythology.

It was here, to the safety of thse impenetrable hills, that bands of former slaves fled, after they were freed and armed by the Spanish to fight the English when they seized the island in 1655. The Maroons, as they became known, founded a community and underground state that would fight a guerrilla war against the English settlers on and off for nearly eighty years.

The Birthplace of Bob Marley
A Short History of Jamaica