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Open Access 1865: prologue to the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica

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1865: prologue to the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]1865 was a crucial year for Jamaica. In October, the Morant Bay Rebellion transformed the colony's political structure as well as that of most of the British Caribbean. Led by a native Baptist deacon, Paul Bogle, the rebellion engulfed the parish of St. Thomas in the East. The subsequent repression by British forces and by the Jamaican Maroons resulted in the deaths of nearly 500 blacks. Yet although the rebellion itself has received considerable attention, there has been relatively little discussion about the nine months which preceded the outbreak (Craton 1988; Curtin 1955; Green 1976; Hall 1959; Heuman 1981; Robotham 1981). This is surprising in light of the highly politicized state of the island during most of 1865. This paper therefore seeks to discuss these developments; it focuses especially on island politics and on the widescale public meetings which took place throughout the island during the year.1

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