In 1494, Columbus was the first European to reach Jamaica and he named it Santiago. In 1523 the Spanish founded Santiago de la Vega as capital of the island. When we finally took over the island we, not very imaginatively, called it Spanish Town. We can’t have thought long and hard about that one.
This being the Caribbean, an area where we tended to attack a lot of things, it’s hardly surprising that during the period of Spanish control, we attacked the island on a number of occasions. In about 1596, English Admiral Sir Anthony Shirley attacked and burned the capital. In 1635, one Colonel Jackson had another go. After a fierce battle at Passage Fort, he defeated the garrison and entered Santiago de le Vega and pillaged the town. Finally, in 1655, a major expedition under Venables and Penn arrived. They had failed in an attack on Santo Domingo and decided to take Jamaica as a consolation prize. Penn and Venables invaded and captured the island, and we kept it, despite two Spanish attempts to retake it. It didn’t save Penn and Venables, as they ended up in the Tower of London when they got back to England.
Jamaica soon became a major destination to which slaves were transported. There were fears of invasion by the French and Spanish during the American War of Independence, but Rodney and Hood’s victory off Dominica prevented that. And, similarly, Admiral Duckworth prevented an invasion in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.
Jamaica became independent in 1962.