Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

4-30-2016

Abstract

Although agency is generally depicted as local actions triggering local results, fears caused by the agency of slaves and Maroons in Jamaica influenced the policies of the British empire by affecting the agendas of worried planter politicians. As the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, slaves who were laboring on Spanish plantations fled to the mountains and formed Maroon colonies. Jamaica was officially ceded to the British in 1670, but Maroons continued to prove problematic by raiding plantations, providing refuge to escaped slaves, and by orchestrating slave revolts. The very knowledge of their presence was enough to gamer inspiration for rebellion among those still enslaved, and to incite anxiety among individuals with financial interests on the island. These examples of slave and Maroon agency are often cited for the ways in which they prompted action from the Jamaican Assembly, but prior analyses fall short of highlighting how the practice of absenteeism allowed concerns to travel overseas, and manifest into political influence. Bryan Edwards, Edward Long, Stephen Fuller, and other influential figures in British politics also held fiscal interests in Jamaica. Letters of correspondence and other works written by these men demonstrate how their multifaceted positions provided a bridge for concerns provoked by the actions of slaves and Maroons to cross the Atlantic, and compel British Parliamentarians to regulate the slave trade - a remarkable example of how agency helped steer the British towards abolition.

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