Slave revolts in Surinam(e)- that was recorded by John Gabriel Stedman in "Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America; From the Year 1772 to 1777"

While Stedman only chronicles 1772- 1777, Slave revolts were common in the region and almost chronic to the colony of Surinam. The treatment in the area was considered notoriously brutal. It's also said that revolts by Maroons were to acquire more goods and to free more slaves.  The revolt also included Marron peoples.

"Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America; From the Year 1772 to 1777... Volume 1 (of 2), by John Gabriel Stedman"

Stedman came with the role to suppress the rebellion against the Dutch colony. Stedman's preface highlights the perspective he and what he assumes the contemporary reader perceives of the affair. The preface is surprising in comparison to the introduction states that he wants to observe the war truthfully.  

The Narrative was widely shared to British people, The narrative's preface was written to:



J. G. Stedman.

The last sentence in the preface says:


"Let it however not be understood, that I ever laid claim to excellence in writing or drawing; but if the plain and manly truth, so often spoken of, and so seldom found, are of any avail—I presume to hope, that these Volumes are not entirely unworthy the attention of a British Public." (vii)

The Book was used in the Abolitionist movement, the reaction to it's publishing in Britan was, " After its publication in Britain, the Critical Review reflected that 'we have never opened any work which is so admirably calculated to excite the most heart-felt abhorrence and detestation of that grossest assault on human nature—domestic slavery' (January 1797). " (British Library).

Stedman was introduced to William Blake through Joseph Johnson, an 18th-century Bookseller. Johnson was Blake's benefactor. Johnson's intervention is integral to the commercial success of the Narrative globally. 

" Through his connections, however, the bookseller could handle all details of publication from choice of paper and type to advertising and wholesale distribution. But more importantly he could exercise the personal interest a patron might take in a protege, offer- ing more than the copyright payment. Of all the booksellers in the second half of the century none surpasses Joseph Johnson for business acumen and literary taste" ( Tyson 1).

Content warning: the section shared may be deeply offensive to some readers. 

Excerpts from Narrative:

"At this place I was not a little shocked, to see the captive rebel negroes and others clanking their chains, and roasting plantains and yams upon the sepulchres of the dead; they presented to my imagination, the image of a number of diabolical fiends in the shape of African slaves, tormenting the souls of their European persecutors. From these gloomy mansions of despair, on this day, seven captive negroes were selected, who being led by a few soldiers to the place of execution, which is in the Savannah, where the sailors and soldiers are interred, six were hanged, and one broken alive upon the rack, with an iron [108]bar; besides which a white man was scourged before the court house, by the public executioner, who is in this country always a black." 

British Library. (n.d.). John Stedman's Narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam, with engravings by William Blake. British Library. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from

Tyson, G. P. (1975). Joseph Johnson, an Eighteenth-Century Bookseller. Studies in Bibliography, 28, 1–16.

(1744–1797), J. G. S. (2022, November 29). Narrative, of a five years' expedition against the revolted negroes of surinam, in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America; from the year 1772 to 1777... volume 1 (of 2). External link. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from


Associated Place(s)

Event date:

circa. 1772 to circa. 1777

Event Source: