Slave Revolt in Jamaica

Slave insurrection in the British Empire

Harvard History Design Studio
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Produced for Dr. Vincent Brown’s African Rebellion Project, this map charts the events of the 1760-1761 insurrection in Jamaica. Dr. Brown is an eminent historian, award-winning author, and Charles Warren Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His project presents groundbreaking new insights into the political history of slavery and shows how African slaves in Jamaica capitalized on the opportunities presented by Britain’s involvement in the Seven Year War against France and Spain, to stage a major revolt that was arguably the most significant in West Indian history. Using extensive thematic narrative and interactive cartography expert historians and the public can now better understand what actually happened and see the revolt, as far as possible, for what it was – a strategic, carefully engineered, military campaign influenced by the island’s topography.

The use of primary historic data for visualization is always plagued by questions of reliability, and this narrative database is by no means exhaustive. However, Dr. Brown’s expertise, together with the meticulously kept records of the events of the revolt, lends considerable authenticity to this map and reveals the spatial dynamics of the military campaign. The map shows key events and locations, approximate routes taken by the different forces (rebels, militia, maroons etc.), and major clashes (including casualties), all supplemented by a detailed narrative. We worked alongside Dr. Brown to collect and interpret the data, and it was then translated to JSON – enabling it to be read by the map.

The main challenge of this project was finding a way to present qualitative, highly narrative, primary historic data in a simple, intuitive digital format. The map had to allow users to experience both the events and their significance while still keeping the cartography simple and time and content central. Rebel and military positions and movements are presented on two historic basemaps, with a brief description of actions, a timeline and temporal controls, and primary source quotes in the surrounding layout. A detailed narrative highlights and links key events, the timeline gives temporal context, provides ease of navigation and charts elapsed time, while the basemap gives a sense of place and allows the user to move back and forth in the narrative to see how the terrain affected movement.

View the source on Github

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Harvard History Design Studio
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