AD 650: The Arawak Taino people settled on the island, which they named Xaymaca, or Isle of Springs. 1494: The Italian navigator in the service of the Spanish Crown, Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), sighted the island. 1509: The island became a Spanish colony. c.1523: The St Iago de la Vega settlement (later Spanish Town) was founded. 1655: A British naval force led by Sir William Penn captured the island. 1670: The island formally came under British control, through the Treaty of Madrid. African slaves were imported as labourers, following the disappearance of the native Arawaks as a result of diseases brought by European settlers. 1 August 1838: Slavery was abolished. October 1865: A rebellion in Morant Bay over economic and social issues, was suppressed, resulting in the death of some 500 people. The rebellion led to the abolition of the island’s Assembly and the imposition of Crown Colony control by the United Kingdom. 1884: Representative government was partially restored. 1938: The centre-left People’s National Party (PNP) was established by Norman Manley. 1943: The right-wing, anti-Communist Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was established. 1944: Jamaica was granted a new Constitution. 24 May 1947: The Governor, Sir John Huggins, banned all public demonstrations for 28 days after the PNP organized a series of protests against the Government’s handling of the island’s high unemployment rate. The PNP none the less continued to hold rallies. 20 December 1949: The JLP retained power at legislative elections, winning 17 of the 32 seats. 12 January 1955: The PNP won a majority at legislative elections, and Manley formed a new Government. 2 August 1956: The British Parliament adopted a bill establishing the British Caribbean Federation, which was to have a joint Government, Legislature and Supreme Court. 14 March 1957: The Governor of Jamaica, Sir Hugh Foot, announced proposals to create virtual self-government on the island and a ministerial system of government. The proposals were approved by the Jamaican legislature. 4 July 1959: The new Constitution came into force by which Jamaica received full internal self-government within the West Indies Federation. The United Kingdom retained responsibility for external affairs and defence. 28 July 1959: The PNP were victorious at the first general elections held under the new Constitution and Manley was re-elected Prime Minister. 26 August 1959: The opposition JLP boycotted the opening of Congress in protest at
1-9 February 1962: The Jamaica Independence Conference was held in London. Government delegates and opposition members reached an agreement on the island’s full independence with representatives of the British Government. 10 April 1962: The JLP defeated the PNP at general elections, and Sir Alexander Bustamante became Premier. 31 May 1962: The British Government formally dissolved the moribund West Indies Federation. 6 August 1962: Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom. 21 February 1967: The JLP increased its majority at legislative elections held in an atmosphere of violence and intimidation. Donald Sangster was appointed Prime Minister after Bustamante resigned on the grounds of ill health. 11 April 1967: Sangster died and was replaced as Prime Minister by the former Minister of External Affairs, Hugh Shearer. 29 February 1972: At legislative elections the JLP was heavily defeated by the PNP, whose leader, Michael Manley, was sworn in as Prime Minister. 19 June 1976-5 June 1977: In response to escalating street violence and crime, the Government imposed a state of emergency and intensified operations by the security forces. 15 December 1976: The PNP retained its majority at a general election held after a campaign marred by serious violence. 8 March 1977: The PNP recorded an overwhelming victory in local council elections, winning 237 of the 269 seats available. 17 December 1979: Manley effected a major reorganization of his administration, primarily in an attempt to reduce Jamaica’s large budgetary deficit. 30 October 1980: At legislative elections the PNP was defeated by the JLP, whose leader, Edward Seaga, formed a new Government. The PNP’s popularity had suffered as a consequence of its decision to reject further funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite the country’s weak economic position. More than 100 people were killed in political violence prior to the election. 29 October 1981: Seaga announced that Jamaica was to sever diplomatic relations with Cuba, after the Cuban Government failed to extradite three men to face murder trials in Jamaica. 26 November 1983: Seaga announced an unexpected general election following demands for his resignation by the opposition over his handling of a major devaluation of the Jamaican dollar. 15 December 1983: The JLP won all 60 seats at legislative elections after the PNP refused to contest the election, claiming the JLP was in breach of an agreement between the two parties stating that no further elections should be held until new voter lists had been compiled. 24-27 June 1986: A general strike was held in protest at Seaga’s policy of publicsector pay cuts. 29 July 1986: The PNP gained control of 11 of the 13 parishes contested at local practice. Seaga offered
position. 9 February 1989: The PNP secured a significant victory at a general election, winning 45 of the 60 seats available in the House of Representatives; Manley was appointed Prime Minister. 6 March 1990: At elections to the 13 municipal councils, the distribution of seats remained unchanged. 31 December 1991: The Deputy Prime Minister, Percival Patterson, was dismissed, following his implication in a financial scandal. 15 March 1992: Manley resigned as Prime Minister for health reasons. 28 March 1992: A PNP Congress elected Patterson to replace Manley as Prime Minister. Patterson pledged to continue Manley’s programme of economic liberalization. 30 March 1993: The PNP secured a resounding victory at legislative elections, and Patterson was reappointed Prime Minister. The elections were, however, marred by allegations of electoral malpractice and the JLP announced its intention to boycott subsequent by-elections, pending the introduction of electoral reform. 7 January 1995: Patterson effected a major reshuffle in an attempt to reduce the size of the Cabinet. 18 December 1997: At legislative elections the PNP won 56% of votes cast and 50 of the 60 seats in the House of Representatives. The JLP obtained 39% of the votes and secured 10 seats. Patterson was subsequently reappointed Prime Minister. 10 September 1998: Local elections, which had been repeatedly postponed since 1993 following allegations of electoral malpractice, finally took place. The PDP gained control of all 13 local councils. Seaga resigned from the JLP leadership for three months in protest at the party’s decision to contest the elections. 13 July 1999: The Government deployed large numbers of troops throughout the capital, Kingston, in an attempt to combat the high incidence of violence and criminal activity, the majority of which was reportedly linked to drugs-trafficking. 8 March 2001: The PNP lost a seat to the JLP at a by-election in North-East St Ann. 11 March 2001: The leader of the opposition National Democratic Movement (NDM), Bruce Golding, resigned in response to the party’s poor performance at the North-East St Ann by-election. 27 May 2001: Hyacinth Bennett was elected leader of the NDM. June 2001: At least 27 people were killed in clashes in Kingston, between PNP and JLP supporters, and also with the security forces. Patterson deployed the Jamaica Defence Force to assist in quelling the violence in the capital.