The Cayman Islands remained largely uninhabited until the 17th
century. A variety of people settled on the islands: pirates, refugees
from the Spanish Inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, deserters from
Oliver Cromwell's army in Jamaica, and slaves. The majority of
Caymanians are of African and British descent, with considerable
interracial mixing. The most important religious denomination is the
"United Church," a local combination of the Presbyterian and
Congregational churches. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Church
of God, and other Protestant denominations are also present.
Great Britain took formal control of the Caymans, along with Jamaica,
under the Treaty of Madrid in 1670. Following several unsuccessful
attempts, permanent settlement of the islands began in the 1730s. The
Cayman Islands historically have been popular as a tax haven. Legend
has it that Caymanians in 1788 rescued the crews of a Jamaican
merchant ship convoy which had struck a reef at Gun Bay and that the
Caymanians were rewarded with King George III's promise to never
again impose any tax.
The Cayman Islands, initially administered as a dependency of
Jamaica, became an independent colony in 1959; they now are a self-
governing British Crown colony.
source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1996