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Trade and Commerce in 17th-Century England: Proclamations

Trade in the Americas

Plantations in the West Indies

By the King. A Proclamation for the Encouraging of Planters in His Majesties Island of Jamaica in the West-Indies

           Between nearly every European nation vying for dominance of the global market, the West Indies were a highly sought after resource. They were targeted for their lucrative geographic position European powers that were seeking to extend their western empires, and economically, they offered several advantages as well, promising profits from agriculture, precious metals, taxes, and the slave trade.

           Given its vastly different climate from that of England, colonies in the West Indies, such as in Jamaica, offered to the English economy valuable produce that the northern colonies could not, such as sugar.  While travel there became notoriously dangerous from threats of hurricanes and pirates, aspiring planters nevertheless headed westward in the pursuit of riches.

           While England held a long-time presence with its colonies in the North, it was in the 17th century that Cromwell seized the Spanish-American colony of Jamaica and began to further English pursuits in the South Seas. Monopoly trade in English America would develop later under the Navigation Acts as the trade relationships between England, the West Indies and the North American colonies strengthened and became one of England’s primary economic focuses.

An Act to Encourage Planters in Jamaica

           Published in 1661 under Charles II, this broadside details the benefits that the Crown was then offering to Englishmen as a way to encourage prospective planters to move to Jamaica. Jamaica gained notoriety in the 17th century amongst the Englishmen for the dangers they faced there, both from threats from other humans and the hazards of sailing in hurricane season, but in the pursuit of riches, and the guarantee of 30 acres, land rights and the other privileges the Crown offered, many took the risk.