This fine map depicts Fort Royale (later St. George’s) the main settlement and military installation on the then French-controlled island of Grenada. The map was issued by Thomas Jefferys, Britain’s premier cartographer, in 1760, at the height of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), a global conflict between Britain and France and their respective allies. Grenada was a key target for invasion by Britain’s Royal Navy, which successfully captured the island in 1762.
As shown, Fort Royale lay upon the best natural harbour in the French West Indies. Grenada was first settled by Europeans when Jacques Dvel du Parquet founded a colony in 1649. A wooden fortress was constructed upon the greatest promontory overlooking Fort Royale Harbour (where the citadel is placed on the map), while the original town of Fort Royale was located on the southeast side of the bay, labelled on the map as ‘Ancient Town Abandoned’. Indeed, this town site had to be evacuated due to a malaria outbreak, with the new Ville de Fort Royale founded at the base of the fort, labelled here as ‘The Town’.
The elaborate ‘Fort’ as shown here was built in the Vauban-style between 1705 and 1710 by Jean-Baptiste de Giou de Caylus (d. 1722), the Chief Engineer of the French West Indies. Caylus also made a magnificent map of the fort and harbour, which was, as stated, used by Jefferys as the basis for the present map.
The inset map ‘The Island of Grenada’, in the lower left of the composition, is most curious. While Jefferys was usually quite meticulous about employing the best geographical sources, this map is remarkable in that it is almost comically inaccurate. Here Grenada assumes a strange dagger-like shape, and most of the place names are either imaginary or severely misplaced. Notably, Fort Royale is shown to be placed in the northwest of the island, as opposed to the southwest. For reasons that are unknown, Jefferys seemed to have disregarded Jacques-Nicolas Bellin’s Carte de l’Isle de la Grenade (1758), a reasonably accurate portrayal of the island which first appeared within Antoine-François Prévost d’Exiles bestseller Histoire générale des voyages. Jefferys’ portrayal of the entire island is especially puzzling given his excellent sourcing for the larger map of Fort Royale.
At the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the Seven Years’ War, France ceded Grenada to Britain. Fort Royale was renamed St. George’s and served as their capital of Grenada. Interestingly, British ignorance of the island’s geography was cast away when the Board of Trade charged Lieutenant Daniel Patterson with making the first scientifically accurate map of the island, which was published in 1780 by William Faden.
Thomas Jefferys: The British Empire’s Leading Mapmaker
Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771) was by far and away the most important and innovative mapmaker in Britain during the critical period leading up to, during and following the Seven Years’ War. More than any other individual, Jefferys was responsible for London’s rise to becoming the World’s leading map-publishing centre, a role it would hold at least until World War I.
While Jefferys made many important contributions to the mapping of Metropolitan Britain, such as sponsoring magnificent county surveys, his greatest achievements were the maps he published of Britain’s overseas colonies and her military operations during the Seven Years’ War. His prominence led to his appointment as the Geographer to the Prince of Wales (later King George III) and he maintained a privileged relationship with the Board of Trade, the Crown body that governed Britain’s American colonies, as well as the Admiralty and the Army’s Ordnance Board, so giving him unpanelled access to fresh, ground-breaking manuscript maps and original surveys. Jefferys notably published epic regional maps of America, including the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia (1753), the Braddock Mead map of New England (1755) and William Gerard de Brahm’s map of South Carolina and Georgia (1757).
Jefferys became quite wealthy upon being the first to publish high quality maps of the theatres and sites of action of the Seven Years’ War, of which the present plan is a fine example. Even to this day, Jefferys’ maps are considered to be the authoritative geographical and logistical records of the conflict.
In spite of the outstanding quality and popularity of his publications, Jefferys went bankrupt in 1766, felled by the phenomenal costs of his English county surveys. He was henceforth sponsored by his friend Robert Sayer, although Jefferys never regained the same commercial success.
The present map appeared in only a single state, but was seemingly issued in three distinct ways. It first appeared within Jefferys’ excellent (and today scarce) book, The Natural and Civil History of the French Dominions in North and South America, giving a particular account of the climate, soil, minerals, animals, vegetables, manufactures, trade, commerce, and languages … Illustrated by maps and plans of the principal places, collected from the best authorities (London, 1760), placed in Part 2, opposite page 156 (the present example is from this source). The map then seems to have been issued separately, before finally appearing as part of Jefferys fantastic, but financially ruinous, atlas of maps of North American and West Indies entitled A General Topography of North America and the West Indies. Being a collection of all the maps, charts, plans, and particular surveys, that have been published of that part of the world, either in Europe or America (London: Robert Sayer, 1768). This map is not to be confused with an eponymous map of much lesser quality that appeared within a 1762 edition of The London Magazine.
The present plan of Fort Royale, Grenada is scarce and only very seldom appears on the market.
References: Phillips, Maps of America, p. 303; David Rumsey Map Collection (online): 4796.016.