In the late seventeenth-century Caribbean, the histories of piracy, the slave trade, and slave revolts were intertwined, complex, and often contradictory. Servants and slaves ran away from plantations and joined soldiers and sailors who had left forced service in the army and navy to become buccaneers. These same buccaneers captured slaves on raids on the Spanish Main and sold them in Jamaica, providing the first plantation workforce for the colony that became the richest in Britain’s Atlantic Empire. At the same time, however, slaves staged a series of successful revolts on Jamaica, building self-sufficient “maroon” communities that despite the best and very costly efforts of British forces, were never defeated. Through the history of buccaneering and maronnage, we see how collective forms of resistance could be co-opted to benefit or conversely threaten the development of the Caribbean plantation complex.
John Donoghue is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). With Evelyn Jennings, he co-edited Building the Atlantic Empires: Unfree Labor and Imperial States in the Political Economy of Capitalism (Leiden: Brill, 2015). He is currently working on a book about the entangled histories of buccaneering, the slave trade, and slave revolts within the wider history of early modern capitalism.
Originally published at history.nd.edu.