Bishop's Rising

The uprising of 1831-32 in northern Jamaica was one of the most widespread and destructive in the British Caribbean colonies. The denial of an extra day's holiday at Christmas, as well as rumours that full emancipation had been granted in Britain but was being withheld by the planters, ignited the simmering discontent of the enslaved population into full-scale rebellion. It began on 27 December 1831, with the burning of Kensington Estate, high above Montego Bay. At the end of a week of violence, 200 slaves and 14 Europeans had been killed, and communications had been cut off across the island. This watercolour shows the British military being called upon to restore law and order.

The harsh reaction by the Jamaican authorities against non-Conformist churches and ministers went a long way to discrediting the institution of slavery and helped undermine its support back in Britain. Just over a year later, the British Parliament voted to abolish slavery. Image courtesy of National Maritime Museum



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by Stephen Luscombe