The Maroon Wars

The Jamaican Maroons are Africans and persons of African descent who ran away or escaped from their masters or owners to acquire and preserve their freedom.

The English and the Maroons were engaged in two wars throughout the period of struggle between them. Maroon oral history suggests that The First Maroon War as it is called began around 1655, spanning approximately 84 years.


The origins of the Maroons date back to 1655 around the time when Tainos and Africans who were freed by the Spanish took to remote parts of the island for refuge from the English invasion and to establish settlements. From the second half of the seventeenth century to the mid eighteenth century the Maroons developed into a formidable force that significantly challenged the system of enslavement imposed by the English. Though great controversy surrounds the terms of the treaties that they signed with the English, their role in undermining institutionalized slavery and cultural traditions are prominent parts of the history and heritage of Jamaica.


The Maroons used various strategies to maintain their freedom and undermine the constant threat which the English posed. They would escape to mainly the Cockpit Country, that is, inaccessible and remote parts of the island where it was hilly and densely vegetated and established communities, which were frequently disrupted by the English.

In fighting for and maintaining their freedom, Maroons displayed highly skillful tactics, which proved to be most challenging for the English. Richard Price has given a vivid description of this: “To the bewilderment of their European enemies, whose rigid and conventional tactics were learnt on the open battlefields of Europe, these highly adaptable and mobile warriors took maximum advantage of local environments, striking and withdrawing with great rapidity, making extensive uses of ambushes to catch their adversaries in crossfire, fighting only when and where they chose, depending on intelligence networks among non‑maroons.

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