A Brief Caribbean History (from Wikipedia)
Caribbean before European contact
The oldest evidence of humans in the Caribbean is in southern Trinidad at Banwari Trace where 7000-year-old remains have been found. These pre-ceramic sites, which belong to the Archaic (pre-ceramic) age, have been termed Ortoiroid. The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlement in Hispaniola dates to about 3600 BCE, but the reliability of these finds is questioned. Consistent dates of 3100 BCE appear in Cuba. The earliest dates in the Lesser Antilles are from 2000 BCE in Antigua. A lack of pre-ceramic sites in the Windward Islands and differences in technology suggest that these Archaic settlers may have Central American origins. Whether an Ortoiroid colonisation of the islands took place is uncertain, but there is little evidence of one.
Between 400 BCE and 200 BCE the first ceramic-using agriculturalists, the Saladoid culture, entered Trinidad from South America. They expanded up the Orinoco River to Trinidad, and then spread rapidly up the islands of the Caribbean. Some time after 250 CE another group, the Barrancoid entered Trinidad. The Barancoid society collapsed along the Orinoco around 650 and another group, the Arauquinoid, expanded into these areas and up the Caribbean chain. Around 1300 a new group, the Mayoid entered Trinidad and remained the dominant culture until Spanish settlement.
At the time of the European discovery of the islands of the Caribbean, three major Amerindian indigenous peoples lived on the islands: the Taíno in the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas and the Leeward Islands, the Island Caribs and Galibi in the Windward Islands and the Ciboney in western Cuba. The Taínos are subdivided into Classic Taínos, who occupied Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, Western Taínos, who occupied Cuba and Jamaica, and the Lesser Taínos, who occupied the Leeward Islands. Trinidad was inhabited by both Carib speaking and Arawak-speaking groups.
The colonial era
Christopher Columbus was the first european explorer to travel to the Americas, but soon afterward both Portuguese and Spanish ships began claiming pieces of Central and South America. These colonies brought in gold, and other European powers, most specifically England, the Netherlands, and France, hoped to make gains in the region. This caused a number of wars throughout the region.
See also: Spanish colonization of the Americas
During the first voyage of the explorer Christopher Columbus (mandated by the Spanish crown to conquer) contact was made with the Lucayans in the Bahamas and the Taíno in Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola, and a few of the native people were taken back to Spain. Small amounts of gold were found in their personal ornaments and other objects such as masks and belts. The Spanish, who came seeking wealth, enslaved the native population and rapidly drove them to near-extinction. To supplement the Amerindian labour, the Spanish imported African slaves.
See also: Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies
Although Spain claimed the entire Caribbean, they settled only the larger islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad.
Other European powers
The other European powers established a presence in the Caribbean after the Spanish Empire declined, partly due to the reduced native population of the area from European diseases.
Francis Drake was an English privateer who attacked many Spanish ships and forts in the Caribbean, including San Juan harbor in 1595. His most celebrated Caribbean exploit was the capture of the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in March, 1573.
The British admiral William Penn seized Jamaica in 1655, and it remained under British rule for over 300 years. The English eventually also held Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, and Bermuda.
The Caribbean was known for pirates, especially between 1640 and 1680; see piracy in the Caribbean. The term "buccaneer" describes a pirate operating in this region.
In 1697 the Spanish ceded the western third of Haiti to France. France also had control of Guadeloupe, Hispaniola and Martinique and Tortuga.
The Dutch took over Saba, Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, Tobago, St. Croix, Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Anguilla and a short time Porto Rico, together called the Dutch West Indies, in the 17th century.