Port Royal, former coastal city and port, S Jamaica. Situated on a deepwater harbor on the Caribbean shipping lanes between Spain and Panama, a settlement was established in the 1th cent. by Spain at the end of a 10-mi (16-km) sand spit. It was captured in 1655 by the English, who built a fort that came to be surrounded by hundreds of houses, shops, and warehouses. Privateers and buccaneers, commissioned by the English to raid Spanish and other shipping and settlements, used Port Royal as a center of operations; they defended the city and shared their booty with the Crown and the city residents. Among the most famous pirates who called the city home was Sir Henry Morgan. By the 1660s Port Royal was known as a rich, dangerous, sin-ridden, wide-open city. As the it prospered, the trade in slaves, sugar, and raw materials also became importantce. Port Royal was the largest English city in the New World, with some 8,000 inhabitants, when in 1692 a massive earthquake struck the city, sinking much of beneath the sea. A small town remains on the site.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.