Of the little agricultural production that took place on the island prior to 1700s,
most of the industries, most notably the sugarcane industry, required manual labor
and the landowners determined this was best accomplished by importing slaves from
Africa. This slave trade continued until the early 1800s
when the slave trade was outlawed. However, by that point Jamaica
had become one of the world's most profitable regions as both sugarcane and
coffee exports increased as did demand worldwide.
However, the increasing number of slaves on the island and the poor treatment of
these people by the landowners seeking larger profits led to ethnic tensions as
the slave population greatly outnumbered the free population in Jamaica by the early
1800s (about 20 slaves to 1 free person). This led to numerous wars and slave uprisings,
with the British always winning the war, but an increasingly large number of former
slaves escaping to the island's mountains and being named "maroons."
In 1834 the United Kingdom abolished slavery throughout
their empire, including the freeing of slaves in Jamaica.
This led to immediate independence demands by these former slaves. The road to independence
though was far off and the island faced numerous hardships. Tension between the
former slaves and white landowners was high and in 1866 the local representative
government was dissolved in favor of direct British rule, an act not entirely welcomed