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Caribbean History Timeline

200s - 1300s

  • Most of the Caribbean inhabited by Carib, Taino, and Arawak Indians


  • (1492 - 1493) Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the New World


  • (1500s) The Spanish Empire claimed the entire Caribbean and most of Latin America. Hispanola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad were settled.
  • (1522) Taino Indian leader, Enriquillo, led a successful rebellion again the Spanish granting his people freedoms and rights
  • (1524) The Council of the Indies was created by the Spanish as a governing body over Caribbean and Latin American territories
  • (1590s) English privateer, Sir Francis Drake, waged war on Spanish ships and ports


  • (1600s) British, French and Dutch forces seized Caribbean territories from failing Spanish Empire. Illegal "piracy" and legal "privateering" began throughout the Caribbean
  • (1612) British colonized Bermuda
  • (1623) British colonized St. Kitts
  • (1627 - 1635) British colonized Barbados, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Anguilla, Tortola and Windward Islands
  • (1635) French contested colonization of St. Kitts. French colonized Guadeloupe and Martinique
  • (1650 - 1730) The Golden Age of Piracy began in the Caribbean
  • (1655) English conquered Jamaica
  • (1650 - 1680) Dutch colonized Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Martin, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, Tobago, St. Croix, Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Anguilla, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • (1664 - 1674) St. Eustatius changed hands ten times in British - Dutch disputes over the island
  • (1697) Spain ceded Haiti to France. France controlled Tortuga


  • (1700 - 1750s) Caribbean colonies prospered in sugar, tobacco, and rice farming. Trade between colonies and nations prevalent
  • (1750s) Turks and Caicos captured by the British
  • (1761 - 1778) British captured Dominica from France
  • (1763) Britain captured Havana during the Seven Years War. Britain traded that one city for a large area of land in Florida, including St. Augustine.
  • (1778 - 1783) French forces recaptured Dominica
  • (1762 - 1783) British and French forces contested Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • (1775 - 1783) French Caribbean naval victories over the British aided revolutionary war efforts for the Americans. American Revolutionary War weakened British power.
  • (1791) A slave rebellion against French forces, dubbed the Haitian Revolution, established Haiti as the world's oldest free, black republic. It was also the second oldest republic in the western hemisphere


  • (1821) Haitian forces conquered the rest of Hispanola
  • (1825) France recognized Haiti as a free nation
  • (1834) Slavery was abolished in the British Empire and in all of their Caribbean colonies
  • (1844) Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti
  • (1863) Dutch empire abolished slavery in its Caribbean colonies
  • (1896) Captain-General Valeriano Weyler forced peasants into concentration camps


  • (1906) Cuba placed under U.S. occupation
  • (1915 - 1934) U.S. occupied Haiti
  • (1916 - 1924) U.S. occupied Dominican Republic
  • (1917) Danes sold U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. for $25 million
  • (1940) General Batista elected Cuba's president
  • (1953) Fidel Castro led a revolution against General Batista in Cuba
  • (1958 - 1962) The Federation of the West Indies was created - included many Caribbean colonies
  • (1962) Dissolution of the Federation of the West Indies inspired Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to declare independence
  • (1962) U-2 spy plane discovered evidence of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba. Cuban Missile Crisis ensued. Russians eventually dismantled Cuban missile bases
  • (1966) Barbados declared their independence from Britain
  • (1971) "Baby Doc" Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeded his father as head of Haiti
  • (1973) The Bahamas declared independence from Britain
  • (1974) Grenada declared independence from Britain
  • (1986) "Baby-Doc" and wife fled Haiti under protests over corruption


  • (2004) Excessive rain caused flooding in Haiti - claimed 3300 lives
  • (2008) Fidel Castro resigned as President of Cuba. Raul Castro became new president
  • (2008) Hurricanes killed 800 people in Haiti during a strong hurricane season
  • (2010) A magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, an estimated 316,000 people died. Over 1,000,000 people made homeless
  • (2010) Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded, leaked hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Threatened Caribbean marine life and beaches
  • (2011) Rumors continued to suggest that Fidel Castro stepped down as head of the Cuban Communist Party

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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This page was last updated on September 19, 2016.