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Was there more continuity than change in British-Jamaican relations between 1760 and 1870?

A Level Coursework Enquiry

What is this?

What follows is an enquiry into the changes and continuities of ‘British-Jamaican’ relations from 1760 to 1870.

The resources developed are suitable for all key stages (with some adaptation needed) but have been particularly geared towards the delivery of a non-examined assessment (coursework piece). As part of the AQA specification this requires students to work with both historical scholarship and contemporary sources in a study of a roughly 100 year period. This is reflected in the copious amounts of both sources and scholarship found here.

Why 1760-1870?


This detail – taken from Vincent Brown’s wonderful study of Tacky’s Revolt – from a 1763 Map of Jamaica shows the location of the Rebel’s Barricade in Westmoreland Parish.

The period 1760 to1870 is bookended by two notable moments of resistance by the black workers of Jamaica. In 1760 – as enslaved people they rise across large swathes of the islands in what becomes known as ‘Tacky’s Revolt’. In 1865 a rising by nominally free persons is put down brutally on the orders of Governor Eyre, whose eventual review and reprieve is in itself a significant moment in British and Jamaican history.

1760 and 1870 lie at the beginning and end of a remarkable century for British colonial rule in Jamaica – which includes a second Maroon War, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, the Baptist War, the ‘Emancipation Act’, the Apprenticeship scheme and the equalisation of sugar duties.

Why Change and Continuity?

The second-order backdrop of this enquiry – change and continuity – emerged organically from the history. This began as a response to an unforgettable 2019 weekend fellowship coordinated by the Justice2History, the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership and the Historical Association. It involved hours of work from all involved and hours more reading from us all.

The Enquiry focuses upon a question that organically emerged during that weekend discussing the legacies of Transatlantic Slavery with other teachers and historians. It’s a question that the historical actors at the time both demanded answers to and then sought to change. It’s a question that leaps up off the pages when reading the historical scholarship. Not least, it’s a question that anti-colonial movements subsequently sought to answer conclusively.

Indeed as someone teaching within a ‘post’ colonial empire today it’s a question that still needs grappling with…

How much really changed with abolition and emancipation?

Within the world of exam boards and NEA specifications, this translates into: Was there more continuity than change in British-Jamaican relations between 1760 and 1870?

Why ‘British-Jamaican relations’?

Within the context of the Cold War and anti-colonial struggles, what story is being told here and which stories aren’t?

The term ‘British-Jamaican relations’ is purposefully open. Too often my own teaching the study of British Transatlantic Slavery has been limited by a particularly narrow focus on what constitutes it’s history and what sits outside of this. Most regularly in UK schools, it’s history is abolitionism, or resistance. But what about it’s economics? Or it’s ideas of race? What followed the emancipation in 1833?

The joy of delivering this at KS5 – with a need to ensure variance in what pupils produce- is that I can open the enquiry up to multiple areas of historical analysis whilst maintaining the very same enquiry question. As such the terms ‘relations’ allow students to learn about and discuss the totality of the system – its logic, contradictions, changes and continuities over 100 years.

Where is the controversy?

This is borne out in the scholarship – where clear historical controversies exist over the nature and pace of change during the period. For those expecting balance-sheet debates over Empire : good or bad, look away now.:

How do we learn?

Each lesson has a PowerPoint and set of resources to use as well as suggested activities and learning objectives.

Lesson 0 is simply a set of basic readings – with questions to guide note-taking – in order for students to build some basic knowledge up before beginning.

Lesson 1 is an introduction to the topic and allows students to return to prior knowledge about slavery and any conceptions or misconceptions they may hold.

Lesson 2 introduces students – through the chronological bookends of Tacky’s Revolt and the Morant Bay Rising – to the Enquiry question. This is a set piece lesson that exists not only to generate the desire to enquire into the changes and continuities of the period, but also to begin to secure a basic chronological overview of the period. Get this one right.

The next five lessons enquire into the pace (when and how quickly?) and extent (how far?) of change our five areas of historical focus. All five ‘themes‘ encourage students to consider the changes and continuities that occurred between 1760 and 1870 and will help them answer the wider ‘Enquiry Question’. As previously mentioned these are as follows:

  • British Public Opinion towards/against Transatlantic Slavery
  • The rise and fall of the ‘West Indian’ Economy*
  • The extent of change ushered in by Emancipation*
  • The changes in forms of resistance by the colonised
  • The changes in constructions of race in both Jamaica and England

*Rooted in the academic debate, students are invited in additional lessons to consider interpretations on the decline of the ‘West-Indian’ economy and the extent of emancipation brought about in 1838.

Where did this come from?

The following sequence of lessons were produced as a response to a 2019 fellowship coordinated by the Justice2History, the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership and the Historical Association. A fuller explanation for teachers and students are also available.

How does each lesson work?

Each lesson includes a brief explanation and learning objectives, a PowerPoint, a collection of Essential Resources for the lesson as well as other relevant resources for students and teachers.