From April 1760 to October of the following year, some 1,500 slaves staged a rebellion in Jamaica against Britain, which was in the midst of its Seven Year's War with France and Spain. Now, thanks to Harvard professor Vincent Brown, you can closely watch as "the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire," also known as Tacky's Revolt, unfolds before your eyes. Subtitled "A Cartographic Narrative," the extremely detailed interactive map lets us examine the slave rebellion up close and evaluate the topographic and spatial parts of the equation. What results is much more preferable than watching a lecturer wag their stick at a map of Jamaica.
(Click on the map to launch the interactive site.)
Combining many 18th century maps, along with topographical maps printed in 1763 for the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, Henry Moore, the map gives us an idea of the terrain, and where the British estates were.
You can watch as the rebelling slaves and the British militia march, travel, and confront each other across the island. You can trace out the waterways they happen to follow. You can see the limited mobility on the northern side of the island, due to heavier rainfall and wind, whereas movement was less hindered on the drier, leeward side. Detailing paramount events such as St. Mary's Revolt, Westmoreland Revolt, Simon's March, Brown's map also shows us the geography of the counterinsurgency. A history student could probably spend an entire semester studying the map.
Naturally, Brown explains there are a number of things we won't glean in reading such a map. "[I]t cannot convey the ambition, hope, desperation, shock, dread, alarm, cruelty, bloodlust, and sheer mayhem of the experience. These are matters left to the historical imagination of viewers and readers," he says.
In the current age of interactive story-telling, where a piece like Jeff Himmelman's 'A Game of Shark and Minnow' for The New York Times Magazine meets the edge of say, a map like this, one can't help but imagine how we'll be taken to where we're looking next.