Pirate history on Jamaica can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries when port towns on the island became havens for pirates, the best known being the town of Port Royal on the island’s western end. Under the watch of pirates and privateers, Port Royal grew into one of the busiest ports in the Americas. Port Royal is often called the pirate capital of the Caribbean, and it’s a must-see destination for visitors interested in pirate history on Jamaica.
Pirate history buffs will recognize the names Captain Henry Morgan, Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, Charles Vane, John “Calico Jack” Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Christopher Myngs; all of whom are said to have spent time in Port Royal. A deep harbor and easy access to trade routes made Port Royal an ideal base for pirates, and up until about the mid-17th century Jamaica welcomed pirates to the town, providing them a safe haven and relying on them to help protect the island from invaders.
For a time, piracy – or privateering, as it’s called when sanctioned by the government – was encouraged in Port Royal. The town grew to be one of the most populous in the Western hemisphere, business was booming and taverns and brothels flourished. All of that changed with the passing of anti-piracy laws in 1687, and Port Royal became known not as a pirate haven, but as the place of pirate executions. Several famed pirates, including Charles Vane and Calico Jack, were hung at Gallows Point.
Several years later, in 1692, Port Royal was devastated by an earthquake which destroyed the town and wiped out much of the population. Many viewed the earthquake as punishment for the town’s history of piracy and general unlawfulness. Today, visitors to Port Royal can learn about pirate history on Jamaica at the Maritime Museum and tour Fort Charles, the last remaining fort in town.
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