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.

Transcript