The maroons of Jamaica

“I decided it was time to jump ship in Jamaica, and I fled to the island’s interior, hanging out with a group of maroons until that infernal ship had left port.”

William Benton

In the prologue of the first novel William Benton explains that he stayed with a group of maroons after he jumped ship. Nathaniel Bagshaw was unaware of the term. Benton explains that they were communities of escaped black slaves. A large community began to flourish on the island of Jamaica, which was ruled by the Spanish at the time, from 1530 onwards after several slave revolts in the colonies of New Spain. The Spanish called them maroons, which is believe to come from the word ‘cimarron’, meaning ‘fierce’ or ‘unruly’. They were known to often ally themselves with buccaneers.

In 1655 the British conquered much of Jamaica and many slaves took advantage of the opportunity to join the maroon communities in the hills. At first, they fought the British, but later allied themselves with them against the Spanish under their leader Lubolo, finally driving the Spanish from the island in 1660. When Lubolo was killed by another maroon leader, Juan de Serras, in 1663 a war, which lasted decades, broke out.

The British were unable to dislodge the maroons from their bases in the mountains, and in 1720 the maroons went on the offensive, attacking plantations. By that time, the maroons were divided into two factions, the Windward and Leeward maroons. Between 1729 and 1739 open warfare was waged between the British and the maroons, but the guerilla tactics of the ex-slaves was too much for the British governor, Robert Hunter, and his troops, and after his death the new Jamaican government resorted to a combination of negotiations and the tactic of divide and conquer.

The war ended with a treaty in 1739, although slavery in the Caribbean continued for another century. Ironically, the maroons were obligated under the treaty to return runaway slaves to their owners. It wasn’t until a massive slave revolt in 1831 that slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Caribbean.

Below is an interesting video on the topic by the Youtube channel History Dose.

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