This map of Jamaica was published just over 20 years after the ending of slavery and almost ten years before the Morant Bay Rebellion (11 October 1865). At the time, the island was a British colony. Jamaica had been a Spanish possession until the English captured it in 1655. It was not long before sugar plantations were established on many parts of the island, with large numbers of enslaved African people brought in to work on them. As a result, Jamaica became Britain’s most valuable Caribbean colony by the early 1700s.
The map shows the physical geography of Jamaica, including its coastline and rivers, hills and mountains. The difficult terrain in some areas had served as bases for the Maroons. The map also shows the names of towns and villages, and how the island was divided up. At the time, Jamaica had three counties – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey – plus a number of parishes. The names of all of these had been ‘anglicised’ after Spanish rule was ended. For example, Jamaica’s capital was called Spanish Town under the British; it had been formerly known as St Jago de la Vega by the Spanish. In 1872 the capital was moved to Kingston, on Jamaica’s south coast.
This is an updated version of maps made in the 18th century by Thomas Jeffrys. He was the leading British map-maker of the time, and created maps of many different parts of the British Empire, as well as of Britain itself. Such maps were useful for government officials, colonial administrators, military commanders and landowners. They also acted as a visual reminder that the British were in charge in Jamaica and elsewhere across the Empire.