Paradise Lost- Colonization and the Jamaican Environment, 1655-1838

When Europeans first landed in Jamaica, they thought that they had arrived in paradise: a sun-kissed tropical island covered with virgin rainforests, dramatic mountains, and exotic flora and fauna. By the early nineteenth century, colonization had fundamentally transformed this supposedly pristine island. This module explores how this process occurred. You will study the numerous ways that colonists exploited the Jamaican environment: the clear-cutting of forests to make way for monoculture plantations; the importation of plants and animals to replace decimated native species; and the extraction and exhaustion of natural resources. You will simultaneously examine enslaved Africans' and Native Americans' environmental perspectives and see how both groups used Jamaica’s mountains and surviving forests to resist the violent process of colonization. We will conclude by examining the colonists’ growing awareness that they had transformed Jamaica’s climate and natural world, just as the island’s economy was fundamentally changed through emancipation. You will thus emerge from this module with a detailed understanding of the natural history of Jamaica—one of the most fascinating places in the Early Modern Atlantic World—and the exciting field of environmental history more broadly.