By The Eightfold Path
Maroon History
By The Eightfold Path


Action Plan



Analysis 1

Analysis 2

Analysis 3


US Influence


Italicized links reference cites outside the Maroon Sovereignty Project.

Columbus's discovery of Jamaica in 1494 began two centuries of Spanish rule. The Spanish enslaved the native Arawaks, who quickly died out from the depridations of slave life and the diseases brought by the European conquerers. The Spanish supplemented their dwindling workforce with African slaves--a practice replicated throughout the Spanish territories in the Carribean and the Americas. By 1530, slave revolts had broken out in Mexico, Hispa¤ola and Panama. The Spanish called these free slaves "Maroons," a word derived from "Cimarron," which means "fierce" or "unruly."

In Jamaica, the Maroons occupied a mountainous region known as the "Cockpit," creating crude fortresses and a culture derived from African and European traditions. Their numbers grew with each runaway slave, and the Spanish began to fear their power. In 1553, Maroon revolts in Panama had forced the Spanish to the negotiating table, and by 1580 Panamanian Maroons had allied themselved with British buccaneers, including Sir Francis Drake. This Maroon-buccaneer alliance posed a serious challenge to Spanish hegemony in the region.

In 1655, the British conquered much of Jamaica, forcing the Spanish to flee to the northern coast. Rather than become slaves to new masters, vast numbers of Spanish slaves took this opportunity to join the Maroons in the hill country. At first, Maroon resistance impeded British efforts to drive the Spaniards from Jamaica, prompting one Spanish commander to conclude that the Maroons were loyal to the Spanish crown. The Maroons quickly dispelled this assumption. Within five years, the British governor, Edward D'Oyley, built an alliance with the Maroon leaders, who quickly routed the Spaniards from their remaining settlements. By 1660, the last Spanish rulers had fled for Cuba. For three years, the Maroon leader Lubolo served the British governor as a colonel, and brought other Maroon factions into alliance with the British. In 1663, another Maroon faction, led by Juan de Serras, ambushed and killed Lubolo, initiating eight decades of escalating tension with the British, who could not dislodge the Maroons from their mountain fortresses. By 1720, the Maroons took the offensive, mounting raids against British plantations along the base of the mountains. From 1729 to 1739, a state of open warfare existed between the British and the Maroons. The first British governor, Robert Hunter, was frustrated by Jamaica's mountainous terrain, which the Maroon leaders used to their advantage. The Windward Maroons were lead by Captain Quao, while the Leeward Maroons followed Cudjoe, a skilled and ruthless guerilla warrior. Hunter died in 1734, and within five years the British decided that the conflict would have to be resolved through negotiation.

The Leeward and Windward Treaties of 1739 ended the Maroon-British wars. British slavery in the Carribean, however, lasted for another century and the Maroons were obligated to return runaway slaves to the British, thus making them reluctant participants in the very system they had fought so long to escape. The massive slave uprisings of 1831 led to the final abolition of slavery in Jamaica and throughout the British Caribbean.

This puts the treaty in a clear context. The Maroons were free well before the British entered the island. Why would they consent to give up their freedom to a slave-holding state? Answers?