Jamaica’s Morant Bay Rebellion: brutality and outrage in the British empire

Richard Huzzey investigates how the brutal massacre following Jamaica's Morant Bay Rebellion created a schism in British opinion over the role of colonialism...

An illustration of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865

This article was first published in the Christmas 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

One hundred and fifty years ago, British soldiers stood among thousands of burned homes in Jamaica, surveying the battlefield they had created. At least 400 Jamaicans lay dead, many of them hanged in reprisals after the fighting had finished. The use of martial law to authorise these deaths quickly became the most infamous part of Britain’s response to the ‘Morant Bay Rebellion’ that shocked the island in October 1865.

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