Detailed map of the lsland of Martinique, with inset maps of Port Royal Harbor and Gallion Harbor, which was first published by Thomas Jefferys in 1775.
In 1720, a French naval officer, Gabriel de Clieu, procured a coffee plant seedling from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paris and transported it to Martinique. He transplanted it on the slopes of Mount Pelee and was able to harvest his first crop in 1726,. By 1736, the number of slaves in Martinique had risen to 60,000 people. In 1750, Saint Pierre had about 15,000 inhabitants, and Fort Royal only about 4,000.
Britain captured the island during the Seven Years' War, holding it from 1762 to 1763. However, the sugar trade made the island so valuable to the French government that at the Treaty of Paris (1763), France gave up all of Canada in order to regain Martinique and Guadeloupe. During the British occupation, Marie Josèph Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, the future Empress Josephine was born to a noble family living on Trois Ilets across the bay from Fort Royal.
By 1774, when a decree ended indentured servitude for whites, there were some 18 to 19 million coffee trees on the island. In 1782, Admiral de Grasse sailed from Martinique to rendezvous with Spanish forces in order to attack Jamaica. The subsequent battle of the Saintes resulted in a massive defeat for the French at the hands of the Royal Navy. The French Revolution (1789) also had an impact on Trinidad when Martiniquan planters and their slaves emigrated there and started to grow sugar and cocoa. In Martinique, there was a small, unsuccessful slave rebellion in Saint Pierre. The French executed six of the ringleaders. On February 4, 1793, Jean Baptiste Dubuc signed an accord in Whitehall, London, putting Martinique under British jurisdiction until the French Monarchy could be re-established. In doing so he forestalled the spread of the French Revolution to Martinique by giving the English an excuse to intervene. Notably, the accord guaranteed the continuation of slavery.
In 1794 the French Convention abolished slavery. However, before this decree could get to Martinique and be implemented, the British attacked the island and captured it. A British force under Admiral Sir John Jervis and Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey captured Fort Royal and Fort Saint Louis on March 22, and Fort Bourbon two days later. On March 30, 1794, the British occupation reinstated the Old Regime, including the Monarchy's Supreme Council and the seneschal's courts of Trinité, Marin, and St Pierre. The Royalists regained possession of their properties and positions, slaves were returned to their masters, and emancipation was forbidden. The government also promulgated an ordinance banning all gatherings of blacks or meetings by slaves, and banned Carnival. However, the British did require an oath of allegiance to the King of England.
Six years later, in 1800, Jean Kina, an ex-slave from Dominica and aide-de-camp to a British officer, fled to Morne Lemaître and called on free blacks and slaves to join him in a rebellion in support of the rights of the free blacks. A number did so, leading Kina to occupy his position for over a year. When he marched on Port Royal though, a British force took over the position and negotiated his surrender in return for amnesty. The British transported Kina to England, where they held him in Newgate Prison.
In 1802, the British returned the island to the French with the Treaty of Amiens. When France regained control of Martinique, Napoléon Bonaparte reinstated slavery. Two years later, he married Martiniquan Josephine de Beauharnais and crowned her Empress of France. During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1804 the British established a fort at Diamond Rock, outside Fort de France, and garrisoned it with some 120 sailors and five cannons. The Royal Navy commissioned the fort HMS Diamond Rock and from there were able for 17 months to harass vessels coming into the port. The French eventually sent a fleet of sixteen vessels that retook the island after a fierce bombardment.
The British again captured Martinique in 1809, and held it until 1814. During Napoleon's 100 Days in 1815, he abolished the slave trade. At the same time the British briefly re-occupied Martinique. The British, who had abolished the slave trade in their empire in 1807, forced Napoleon's successor, Louis XVIII to retain the proscription, though it did not become truly effective until 1831.
Robert Laurie (ca. 1755-1836) and James Whittle (1757-1818) formed their Fleet Street, London-based firm upon the 1794 death of their employer Robert Sayer, himself one of the dominant print and mapmakers of the last half of the 18th century.
Laurie & Whittle started managing Sayer's business as early as 1787. They took over all managerial duties when Sayer's health flagged in 1792, and they changed the imprint in 1794 upon his death. Sayer left the two a 21-year lease on the shop (at £100 a year) and on Sayer's Bolt Court premises, as well as an option to acquire stock and equipment at a preferential price of £5,000 payable over three years.
Robert Laurie retired from the firm in 1812, and his role was assumed by his son, Richard Holmes Laurie (1777-1858). The younger Laurie worked with James Whittle until the latter died in 1818. After R. H. Laurie died in 1858, Alexander George Findlay, FRGS (1812-1875) purchased the firm from his daughters. The firm continues today under another name, specializing in yachting charts.
Laurie & Whittle were prolific print and map publishers, and throughout their careers, they produced numerous very important and rare works. They carried on Robert Sayer's atlas business and were responsible for editions of The Complete East-India Pilot and The American Atlas.