Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol. 1

History was written—England captured Jamaica from the Spaniards under Oliver Cromwell in 1655. Much of this history has been retold by Edward Long, best known for his first socio-economic and political study The History of Jamaica. His polemic supported the enslavement of African and Caribbean people and the monopolies and monocultures played out through the natural environment.

These testimonies address some of Long’s claims. A slave woman tells of the naming of Catherine’s Peak and the erasure of the achievements of Black Jamaicans in the field of natural history. A mystic takes us back to the Spanish occupation. The maroons Juan de Bolas and Juan de Serras grieve their fate and the tragic future that came with sugarcane. These are imaginings of what the people who lived through this wrestling of Jamaica might have said, given the chance.

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About me

Dr. Zakiya McKenzie is a writer and cultural historian based in Bristol, UK. In 2019 she was writer-in-residence for Forestry England and in 2021 she was artist-in-residence at Studio Voltaire in London.

Her 2021 Rough Trade Books historical fiction pamphlet Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol. 1 explores the natural and social history of Jamaica in 1655 – the year Britain took the colony of Jamaica from Spain.

Dr. McKenzie was the 2023 winner of the Olivette Otele Prize in Black British Studies
convened by the Institute of Historical Research. Her paper titled ‘The Making of the Empire Windrush as a cultural motif’ challenged the contemporary idea of the Empire Windrush as a vessel of hope and dreams for post war Caribbean people in Britain.

Dr. McKenzie finished a PhD in English from the University of Exeter on the history of Black British newsprint in December 2023.

Zakiya’s essays have appeared in a number of anthologies including, Haunting Ashton Court: A Creative Handbook for Collective History-Making (2023), Radical Landscapes: Art, Identity and Activism (Tate, 2022), Reading the Forest: A Forest of Dean Anthology (Douglas McLean Publishing, 2022), Women on Nature: An Anthology of Women’s Writing about the Natural World in the East Atlantic Archipelago (Unbound, 2021), Gifts of Gravity and Light: A Nature Almanac for the 21st Century (Hodder & Stoughton, 2021) and The Wild Isles: An Anthology of the Best of British & Irish Nature Writing (Head of Zeus, 2021).