New World Royalists

New World Royalists is a new digital humanities project from the CSLBS focused on Port Royal Parish, Jamaica.

The project uses an array of digital resources to produce a deep and unique history of Port Royal parish, Jamaica, from the perspective of enslaved people who lived there. The project eschews familiar tales of piracy by remapping a town which looms large in the popular imaginary, to instead tell stories of urbanity, mobility, enslavement, labour, and freedom from new perspectives.

This interactive textual, visual, and sonic narrative of local lives integrates genealogical information and data from the Register of Returns on enslaved people published triennially from 1817-1832 in collaboration with researchers in Jamaica. It draws on large datasets and previously unused surveys and archival sources to tell detailed and experiential stories of Port Royal town and plantation communities in the Blue Mountains, aiming to produce a consistent aesthetic for the project that permits a clear and immersive experience (incorporating, for instance, found sounds, sketches from nineteenth-century texts, and animated maps).

Our work reveals mobility patterns across Jamaica, changes in Jamaica’s political economy in the late-slavery and early post-slavery period, and links between Jamaica, the UK, and the other islands of the Caribbean. It contributes to a wider methodological shift in historiography and research culture from focusing on the white minority involved in the slavery business to the enslaved and free black populations of the British colonies. The ultimate objective is to open new frontiers for transnational genealogical research and scholarship.

Project dates: From 2022.
Project team: Matthew J. Smith, Matthew Stallard, Jess Hannah, Sean Cham, Holly French.