King's College London
Online Exhibitions
‘The paradise of the world’: conflict and society in the Caribbean

First Maroon War

Engraved plate showing Cudjoe exchanging hats with Colonel GuthrieOld Cudjoe making peace, from: Robert Charles Dallas. The history of the Maroons, from their origin to the establishment of their chief tribe at Sierra Leone. London: printed by A Strahan ... for TN Longman and G Rees, 1803 [FCO Historical Collection F1884 DAL]The word Maroon, derived from the French word marron (feral or fugitive), was used to refer to groups of slaves who had escaped from captivity and settled in remote regions of the Caribbean islands and mainland. By the eighteenth century the Maroons of Jamaica – descended from slaves who had fled into the hills with their Spanish masters after the English capture of Jamaica from the Spaniards in 1655 – were a force to be reckoned with.

Fiercely independent, they lived by hunting and farming in the rugged and mountainous Cockpit country in the centre of the island, from where they launched frequent raids on the remoter plantations, killing the white inhabitants and carrying off food, livestock and female slaves. Their numbers were increased by further additions of runaway slaves and by the 1730s the Jamaica Assembly ceded to pressure from the planters and recruited a force of Miskito Indians, free blacks and persons of mixed race to fight the Maroons.

This First Maroon War ended in March 1739, when the Maroons, under their leader Cudjoe, agreed to peace terms. They were guaranteed freedom and semi-independent rule in the Cockpit country and the surrounding area, on condition that they ceased hostilities against the white planters, provided military aid to the governor in case of invasion or slave mutiny and returned any runaway slaves who sought refuge in their territory.

On display is a copy of Dallas’s History of the Maroons. The frontispiece shows Cudjoe exchanging hats with Colonel Guthrie, as a gesture of goodwill prior to discussing peace terms. Cudjoe isdescribed by Dallas as having been ‘rather a short man, uncommonly stout’ and the artist has clearly tried to reflect these characteristics in his rendering of the scene. His name, a ‘day-name’ meaning ‘Monday’ in one of the languages of the Akan people, indicates that his forebears came from what is now Ghana or the Ivory Coast.

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