EUROPEAN TRADING nations found that supplies of gold, silver and sugar would not be unlimited in Europe and Africa. They would have to be found elsewhere. That’s the reason why the focus of commercial activities of countries such as England, Holland and France shifted to the Americas and the Caribbean in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Islands in the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Martinique, Haiti and Guyana would come to be known as the West Indies. (The name ‘West Indies’ originates from Christopher Columbus’ idea that he had landed in the Indies, which then meant all of South and East Asia, when in fact he had arrived in the Americas.)
The Carib and Arawak Indians were the original populations of these islands but they were virtually wiped out by the European explorers. Before long the West Indies became very lucrative to European countries; they created plantations on the islands for the harvesting of sugar and tobacco.
The islands were ruled by different countries. For example, France took Martinique while England took Jamaica. North America was also under British rule at the time.