British Empire > Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration


The Cayman Islands are a group of three islands that are part of the Greater Antilles and were colonized by the British Empire. There is no archaeological evidence for the earliest inhabitants of the island however, many groups of people such as pirates, refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, deserters from Oliver Cromwell's army in Jamaica, and slaves all sought refuge on the island throughout the 17th century.

The first permanent settler on the Cayman Islands was known as Isaac Bodden who was born on the islands around 1661. He was the grandson of the original settler named Bodden who was most likely one of the soldiers that took part in the capture and seizure of British Jamaica in 1665. The first few settlements were ultimately unsuccessful but permanent ones stuck in the 1730's. This meant that throughout the Buccaneering Era and the Post Spanish Succession Period the islands were havens for pirates.

The Cayman Islands would formally change hands from the Spanish to the British under the Treaty of Madrid in 1670 along with the Colony of Santiago, also known as Spanish Jamaica. Following this throughout the early 18th century the British would make a few unsuccessful attempts to settle on the island. Eventually the first permanent settlement arose on the islands in the 1730's. Eventually the first royal land grants were given by the Governor of Jamaica in 1734 and the first slaves were imported to the island.

Many of the slaves on the island were brought from Africa which led to a mixture of English and African population on the island. The first census was taken in 1802 and found that the population of the island was 933 with 545 of the original inhabitants having been slaves. Slavery would eventually be abolished in 1833 on the island. At the time of slavery abolition there would be over 950 families of African ancestry and only 116 of English. The Cayman Islands would continue to be ruled by the Colony of Jamaica until 1962 when they would become a separate Crown colony. Nearby Jamaica was to become an independent Commonwealth realm.

Historically the Cayman Islands have been a tax-exempt destination for investors and the rich. This was due to an event that occurred on 8 February of 1794 when the population of the Cayman Islands rescued the crews of ten merchant ships including the HMS Convert which later became known as the Wreck of the Ten Sail. During this event the ships had struck a reef and run aground. Following this according to a popular legend one of the crew was a family member of king George III who rewarded the Cayman Islands with a promise never to introduce taxes. However, many believe this story is not true and the Cayman Islands were always taxed indirectly rather than directly historically. However, the islands presently have no income tax, capital gains tax or any wealth tax which makes them a popular tax shelter.

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