Those who wish to study the history of settlement in Jamaica are unusually fortunate in having available to them a remarkable collection of maps and plans. This major collection, housed in the National Library of Jamaica, contains roughly 20,000 items, most of them in manuscript. It includes landholdings of all sizes from both rural and urban settlements, but probably the most striking are those plans which portray the internal layout of large agricultural units — estates, plantations and pens. Only 1,000 of the plans in the National Library's collection are of this type; the remainder show little more than the boundaries of properties and are useful only for the analysis of land tenure and regional settlement patterns. The studies presented in this book are concerned strictly with those plans which illustrate the internal structure of the large landholdings. These were the plantations that dominated the Jamaican landscape throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In case it is thought that 1,000 plans provide a small sample on which to build a study of Jamaican plantations, it is worth emphasizing that the number of known plans depicting the internal layout of plantations for the island is far greater than that for any other territory of the Caribbean. Barbados and the Leeward Islands have longer histories as plantation societies, yet only a handful of plans from the period before 1900 seem to have survived. 1 The situation is little better for the Windward Islands and Guyana. 2 Most of the plans extant for these territories are to be found in European collections, as is the case for the Francophone Caribbean. 3 Some states of the southern United States do possess substantial collections, but they have not been the subject of systematic study. 4 The Jamaican collection is also significant when compared with metropolitan British collections of estate plans. 5
The richness of the collection of plantation maps at the National Library of Jamaica is enhanced by the fact that it is associated with a considerable quantity of surveyors' field books and original protractions, together with relevant correspondence, indentures and printed advertisements. Thus the material is valuable as a source for the study of the history of colonial surveying and planmaking techniques as well as providing rare information on the realities of plantation layout and land use. Outside the collection of plans itself, the resources of the National Library very often make it possible to compare the cartographic evidence with that provided by contemporary pictorial and literary material, and so to paint a fuller picture of plantation life.
Several reasons may be advanced to explain the existence and survival of this precious cartographic material for Jamaica. In the first place, the unusual dominance of the large plantation and the extent of the plantation system provided a large base of potentially mappable properties. The rapid growth of absentee proprietorship during the eighteenth century created a large group of wealthy individuals resident in Great Britain anxious to visualize their plantations and capable of paying the charges of professional surveyors and planmakers (as well as, sometimes, pictorial artists). More important, the spread of settlement within Jamaica continued unabated throughout the period before emancipation so that there was a demand for plans of new and restructured plantations well into the period when the popularity of estate mapping