A General Chart of the West India Islands, 1796

Description

This is a late 18th century map of the Caribbean region, made by the British map-maker Louis Stanislaw de la Rochette.  

From the largest island of Cuba on the western side (the left), the island chain runs eastern (rightwards) with Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, before turning in a southerly direction, where there are many smaller islands. Other islands can be found on the southern side of the Caribbean Sea. North of Cuba are the Bahamas and Florida, which is now part of the USA. At the bottom of the map is South America and on the left-hand side is Central America. Both were part of the Spanish Empire at this time. Britain’s most important colony at this time was Jamaica, south of Cuba. For France, it was St Domingue, the smaller, western part of the large island of Hispaniola. By the time this map was made, few of the ‘Amerindian’ people who had lived in the Caribbean before the Europeans arrived were left. The names of many Caribbean islands are a reminder of their presence, however.

The map is colour coded to show which European country controlled which colonies. The British colonies have pink around their borders, the French blue and the Spanish yellow. As such, the map seems to show the Caribbean as firmly under the control of various European countries. In 1796, this was a war-torn part of the world, however, as the Europeans fought against one another for supremacy. In addition, a huge rebellion had broken out among the enslaved people of French St Domingue only five years before. Known as the ‘Haitian Revolution’, the armies of the British, French and Spanish would all face defeat as they tried to suppress the uprising. In 1804 St Domingue was renamed ‘Haiti’, after the original Amerindian name. It became the first country in the Americas run by people of African descent.

Full title:
A general chart of the West India Islands: With the adjacent coasts of the Spanish continent
Published:
1796, London
Format:
Map
Creator:
Loius Delarochette
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Maps K.Top.123.14

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery

Article by:
David Lambert

After the Caribbean was first colonised by Spain in the 15th century, a system of sugar planting and enslavement evolved. David Lambert explores how this system changed the region, and how enslaved people continued to resist colonial rule.

An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery

Article by:
David Lambert
Theme:
Waves of history

After the Caribbean was first colonised by Spain in the 15th century, a system of sugar planting and enslavement evolved. David Lambert explores how this system changed the region, and how enslaved people continued to resist colonial rule.

Britain’s involvement with New World slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

Article by:
Abdul Mohamud, Robin Whitburn
Themes:
Travel, colonialism and slavery, Politics and religion

With a focus on the 17th and 18th centuries, Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn trace the history of Britain’s large-scale involvement in the enslavement of Africans and the transatlantic slave trade. Alongside this, Mohamud and Whitburn consider examples of resistance by enslaved people and communities, the work of abolitionists and the legacy of slavery.

Related collection items