Wilberforce Institute Event: Tacky’s Revolt

On Thursday 23 July, from 17.00-19.00 BST, the Wilberforce Institute will host a webinar on the subject of Tacky’s Revolt.

Tacky’s Revolt, or the Slave Rebellions in Jamaica, 1760-61, was the largest and most significant revolt in eighteenth-century British America and the most important revolt undertaken by enslaved people in the Caribbean before the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. It was a series of attacks made by enslaved people, many of whom were African and usually thought to have been Coromantee people from the Gold Coast of West Africa, in several parts of Jamaica. Jamaica at that time was Britain’s most valuable tropical colony and one in which the population was divided starkly between a small minority of privileged and often very wealthy whites and a large majority of harshly treated enslaved people of African descent. The rebels who joined in the revolts killed many whites, destroyed much plantation property and showed they were a formidable internal foe of British imperial rule. They very nearly succeeded in overturning white rule on the island. The rebellions were put down only with maximum effort and through the combined actions of British regulars, Jamaican Maroons (autonomous communities of people of African heritage) and the white militia. The imperial state’s retribution against rebels was ferocious, reflecting the terror a population of white Jamaicans experienced about how close they and their island society had come to disaster.

This webinar will involve a stellar cast of invited academics, all with specialist knowledge in this area. Diana Paton, William Robertson Professor at the University of Edinburgh (author of The Cultural Politics of Obeah)will chair the session, which will see five academics discussing their understanding of the revolt. Our panellists are as follows: Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of History at Harvard University (author of Tacky’s Revolt); Edward Rugemer, Associate Professor of History at Yale University (author of Slave Law and the Politics of Resistance); Lissa Bollettino, Associate Professor of History at Framingham State University (author of the forthcoming Slavery, War and Britain’s Eighteenth Century Atlantic Empire);  Robert Hanserd, Assistant Professor of History at Columbia College, Chicago (author of Identity, Spirit and Freedom in the Atlantic World); and our very own Trevor Burnard, Wilberforce Professor in the Wilberforce Institute (author of Jamaica in the Age of Revolution). Erica Charters, Associate Professor of History at the University of Oxford (author of Disease, War and the Imperial State), will offer a final commentary, before we open the floor for questions.

The aim is for each of the panellists to talk for a maximum of 10 minutes, beginning with a short discussion of their sources and the problems they present, before moving on to reveal the causes of the rebellion. The aim then is to give everyone present an opportunity to think about the different ways in which an event as important as Tacky’s Revolt can be interpreted when historians have only some of the sources they would like at hand.

This webinar has now taken place. If you would like to see a recording of the event, please click on the link below. This will take you to a library of all our recorded webinars.