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Life in Port Royal

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Life in Port Royal

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Background

Port Royal was home to thousands of people including buccaneers, merchants, four goldsmiths, forty-four tavern owners, prostitutes, and many other artisans and merchants. At its height there were known to have been over two thousand buildings crammed together within 52 acres (21 ha) on the strip of land. Hundreds of ships visited the port every year and the city actually saw one of the biggest developments in a coin based monetary system rather than bartering. Charles Leslie described the cities in the 1660's as;

"Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that... some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.

Port Royal was known around the world for its excessive consumption of alcohol and other vices that there are written records of wild animals in the area partaking in the festivities. One famous story in pirate lore is that Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach during his early years met a howler monkey at a Port Royal tavern that he befriended and named Jefferson. The monkey accompanied Blackbeard during his exploits. During a passing visit, famous Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck described Port Royal as'

"The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink from the large stocks of ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it."

In 1688 it is recorded that 213 ships visited the port alone and by 1689 over half of the population of four thousand was directly involved in buccaneering. When the earthquake hit in 1692 there were five forts necessary to protect the city and the island against a Spanish invasion. At this time however, the Brethren of the Coast were no longer tolerated as much and their activities were discouraged.

The exploits of Henry Morgan barely were legal in the sense he plead no knowledge of the treaty signed between England and Spain but weather he truly knew is open to debate. During the time of peace the buccaneers were no longer necessary to defend the city and in 1687 the island of British Jamaica passed its first anti-piracy laws. Henry Morgan died at Port Royal in 1688 but the famed buccaneer city was not much longer for this world.

Port Royal Economy

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Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Haring, C. H. (1910). The Buccaneers in the West Indies in the XVII century. Hamden, Conn: Archon Books.

Cruikshank, E. A. (1935). The Life of Sir Henry Morgan: With an Account of the English settlement of the Island of Jamaica. Toronto: Macmillan.

Texas A and M University: The Port Royal Project