History of the Cayman Islands

First Inhabitants

Various people settled on the islands from refuges from the Spanish inquisition to pirates to slaves, shipwrecked sailors and more. Majority of Caymanians are of British and African descent. The first settlers of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman came from Jamaica. Isaac Bodden is the first recorded permanent resident of the Cayman Islands. He was actually born on Grand Cayman in 1661 and the grandson of the islands’ original settler. The first settlers were displaced by Spanish privateers attacks as the island became a favorite base among pirates and privateers.

In the 1730s, permanent settlement of the islands commenced. In 1794, ten vessels were shipwrecked near Grand Cayman. All passengers were saved including a member of the Royal Family. It was said that King George III, out of gratefulness to the settlers, decreed that Caymanians will never be drafted for war service and will never be taxed. To this day, residents and companies in the Cayman Islands are exempted from paying taxes.

First Legislation

In 1670, Cayman Islands with Jamaica were captured and turned over to England under the Treaty of Madrid. The first local legislation was on December 31, 1831. The Governor of Jamaica approved an assembly of eight magistrates duly appointed by the governor and 10 elected representatives. In 1835, the governor of Jamaica declared all slaves free based on the Emancipation Act of 1833. In 1863 Cayman Islands became a dependency of Jamaica. The two islands were treated as separate territories only in 1962 when Jamaica became a commonwealth and Cayman Islands a British Overseas Territory.

The 1950s, 60s, and 70s

Cayman Island’s first airfield was opened in 1953. It was also about this time that the George Town Public hospital was opened to the public. Formalized commerce was introduced by Barclays as it opened the first commercial bank in the island.

After two years of campaign, the 1959 Constitution allowed women to vote. It was also about this time that the Cayman started to break away as a dependency of Jamaica which was formalized in 1962 but the two territories still shared many links and experiences. Today, Jamaicans comprised 50% of expats working in Cayman Islands.

In 1971 the structure of the government was changed to governorship with Athel Long being the last administrator and first governor of Cayman Islands.