Maroon communities were made up of formerly enslaved people who had managed to escape slavery. They inhabited the mountains and forests of Caribbean colonies, areas which often were inaccessible to Europeans. Many of Jamaica's earliest Maroon communities dated from Britain's invasion of the island in 1655 when it was under Spanish control. Others were formed by slaves who freed themselves from the plantations.
Maroon treaties with British authorities
After many years of fighting against British forces, raiding the plantations and encouraging enslaved people to join them, Jamaica’s two main Maroon groups signed treaties with the British authorities in 1739 and 1740. In exchange for peace, and their promise of military support for the plantation system and the return of runaways, the freedom of the Maroons was recognised and their lands were granted to them. As the plantation complex expanded, however, there was another war between the British and the Leeward Maroons in 1795–9, which eventually ended with their defeat. These Trelawney Town Maroons were deported to Nova Scotia in Canada and later moved to Sierra Leone in West Africa.
What does this print depict?
Based on a painting by François Jules Bourgoin, this aquatint by J Mérigot from the King's Topographical Collection in the British Library shows British troops caught in an ambush by a group of Maroons in 1795. This type of warfare was commonly used by the Maroons, who could draw on their intimate knowledge of the land. The successes of the Maroons against British soldiers encouraged some officers to argue in favour of the creation of units made up of men of African descent for military service in the Caribbean.