The History of the Economic and Social Progress of the Cayman Islands

Topics: Cayman Islands, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman Pages: 8 (2339 words) Published: May 25, 2014

The history of the economic and social progress of the Cayman Islands (the “islands” or the “country”) from the first inhabitants has been a journey consisting of various methods of earning income and adaptation to changes in time. As today turns into the past history takes place – it becomes evident that those methods were successfully developed to meet the growing demands of the country.

Discovery History

On 10th May 1503 Christopher Columbus sighted the Cayman Islands on his fourth and final voyage. At that time he discovered thousands of turtles on the shores and initially called the islands “Las Tortugas”. In 1523, a map was drawn showing all three Islands under the name “Lagartos,” meaning alligators or large lizards. By 1530, the islands were called the “Caimanas” which derived from the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile that formerly inhabited the islands. “Caimanas” evolved to the Cayman Islands, the present name (

During the period of Christopher Columbus, the islands had no inhabitants, just visitors from sailing ships. Because of the depredations of Spanish privateers, the governor of Jamaica called the settlers back to Jamaica, though by this time Spain had recognized British possession of the Islands in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. Often in breach of the treaty, British privateers roamed the area taking their prizes, probably using the Cayman Islands to replenish stocks of food and water and careen their vessels (Government, C. I. (n.d.). The British intrusion on the Spanish American Empire was done under the orders of Oliver Cromwell’s army (J.A. Bodden 2007). The first recorded settlements were located on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac during 1661-71.They remained largely uninhabited until the 17th century. The first known settlers arrived in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac around 1658; it is likely these were deserters from Oliver Cromwell’s army in the British colony in Jamaica. Many of the early inhabitants were also Britons from Jamaica. Some early residents were believed to be pirates that settled down looking for a more peaceful life (

Seafaring History

These islands are said to be built by seafarers. There were very little resources to export for income, and to compensate for the lack thereof labor was a common export. It was customary for young men to go off to sea to work on various ships, for months on end and later return with earnings for their families. Due to their vast experience at sea, Caymanian men were highly sought after as unparalleled mariners by the largest shipping companies as captains, navigators and crew for their vessels. (

Maritime Industries

Maritime industries included: turtling, fishing and ship building. Turtling was an industry based on the trade of meat and the shell as a bi-product. Its consumer base was both local and overseas; exports were sent mainly to the United States and the United Kingdom (Governor, 1905/06). The two species of turtle sought after were the Green turtle and the Hawks-bill turtle. In due time the once abundant turtles decreased in number. The depletion of the various species became a great concern and as a result, in the early 1900s international regulation reduced the turtling industry to a more substantial level which lead the industry to eventually diminish. The solution and the middle ground to this issue was the establishment of the Turtle Farm in 1968 ( Its aim has always been geared towards the conservation of turtles by the implementation of a release programme and the preservation of the Caymanian culture and heritage by harvesting some of meat for local consumption.

Ship Building was an industry that Caymanians took great pride in. They were built for locals and foreigners alike. These vessels were a vehicle that allowed them to go to sea, harvest various resources, and in return those resources would...

Bibliography: Governor, J. A. (1905/06). Colonial Reports, Cayman Islands (Jamaica). Grand Cayman: Photocopy by CINA.
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