Mona Past and Present: The History and Heritage of the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies

Mona Past and Present: The History and Heritage of the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies

Mona Past and Present: The History and Heritage of the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies

Mona Past and Present: The History and Heritage of the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies


Founded in 1948, the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies is located in Kingston, Jamaica, and is the largest campus in the unique multi-campus, multi-island university system. Internationally known for its scholarship, the Mona campus is also renowned for its commitment to and preservation of a rich historical legacy. Built on the site of former sugar and slave plantations, the campus has several outstanding historical features which have been partially preserved. This carefully researched and well-written publication investigates the historical ruins on the campus, which include an eighteenth-century aqueduct, an intact bookkeeper's house, a distillery, a boiling and curing house, and the wooden barracks of Gibraltar Camp, which housed at various times during World War II Jewish refugees, Gibraltarian evacuees, and interned Germans and Italians. Beautiful photographs of historic campus landmarks are featured, including the exquisite University Chapel, which was originally part of aneighteenth-century sugar estate in Trelawny. The Georgian building was disassembled, moved and reconstructed on the Mona campus in the 1950s. The book provides a useful guide for a walking tour of the campus, and survey maps point out where slave villages were originally located. It is replete with charming anecdotes that capture the spirit of the times and bring the rich history of the campus to life.


The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies — the first to be established, and indeed the only campus for a decade after the foundation of the University College of the West Indies in 1948 — sits on a site of remarkable historical, cultural and architectural diversity. Although this has long been recognized, details of this rich diversity have hitherto remained relatively inaccessible to the curious observer and to the general public. Guides to the campus do exist, but they are hard to come by and tend to deal only with specific periods and themes. The present publication represents the first attempt to pull together the various strands and layers of the historical past of the campus into a coherent whole.

The area constituting the Mona campus has been home to an eclectic range of peoples who have left their mark, to a greater or lesser extent, on the history of Jamaica and on the campus topography. Today, of course, it is the architecture of the late-twentieth-century University that dominates but does not wholly obscure relics of the more distant past — the eighteenth-century aqueduct, for example, or the bookkeeper's cottage of the old Mona Estate (home, since 2000, to the department's Archaeology Laboratory), or the wooden buildings of the Gibraltar Camp period.

The burgeoning construction of the past ten years — an impressive reflection of the dynamism and vitality of the modern University — has radically transformed the aspect of the campus. It seemed most appropriate, in the middle of this period of most rapid change, to stand back and take stock, and to undertake a comprehensive inventory and record of the history and heritage of the campus.

The Department of History and its staff have accumulated a good deal of experience in this domain, through the organization of tours, archaeological excavations and in the drafting of the 1992 Report to the Principal on the historic features of the campus. Yet when it came to considering who might write this publication, the decision was a gratifyingly easy one to make. Suzanne Francis Brown, a graduate of the master's programme in Heritage Studies and an experienced journalist and author in her own right, had just completed an excellent research paper: "Heritage and Development at the UWI Mona Campus". Happily for the department, she was agreeable to our proposal, and has produced a fascinating compendium of text and illustrations, which does full justice to the richness of the campus past. We are most grateful to the Campus Principal, Professor Kenneth Hall, for seeing the merit in this project, and for providing the funds which have enabled us to carry it through to fruition.

Jonathan Dalby
Department of History and Archaeology . . .

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