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Seminar: The Haitian Revolution

In this seminar, we will discuss the most important and successful Caribbean slave revolt – that which took place in the French colony of St. Domingue and resulted in the creation of the second independent republic in the Americas, Haiti.

Seminar questions

  • What were the causes of the Haitian Revolution?
  • Why was the Haitian Revolution ‘unthinkable’ (Trouillot, 1991)?
  • Was the Haitian Revolution a success? Explain your answer.

Required reading

The classic account of the Haitian Revolution is by C. L. R. James. It is worth looking particularly at the introduction to the 2001 edition by James Walvin and the 1963 appendix by James himself:

* James, C. L. R., The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London, 1980; originally published 1938).

Also read…

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, ‘From Planters’ Journals to Academia: The Haitian Revolution as Unthinkable History’, Journal of Caribbean History, 25 (1991), pp. 81-99.

…or…

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston, MA, 1995), chapter 3.

Finally, read…

Fick, Carolyn, E., 'Dilemmas of Emancipation: From the Saint Domingue Insurrections of 1791 to the Emerging Haitian State', History Workshop Journal, 46 (1998), pp. 1-16.

This comes from a special issue of History Workshop Journal on the Haitian Revolution (issue 46, 1998). The same issue contains an editorial, by Bill Schwarz and Felix Driver, an interview with Stuart Hall and a piece by Carolyn Fick that are worth looking over.

Further readings

Schwarz, Bill, ‘“Not Even Past Yet”’, History Workshop Journal, 57 (2004), pp. 101-15.

Scott, David, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (Duke University Press, 2004).

Dubois, Laurent, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA; London, 2004).

Dubois, Laurent and John D. Garrigus, Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2017).

Dun, James Alexander, Dangerous Neighbors: Making the Haitian Revolution in Early America (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

Eller, Anne, We Dream Together: Dominican Independence, Haiti, and the Fight for Caribbean Freedom (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

Jenson, Deborah, ‘Jean Jacques Dessalines and the African character of the Haitian Revolution’, William and Mary Quarterly, 69: 3 (2012), pp. 615–38.

Ferrer, Ada, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Fick, Carolyn, ‘The St Domingue Slave Insurrection of 1791: A Socio-Political and Cultural Analysis’ in Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd (eds), Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader (London, 2000), pp. 961-982.

Fick, Carolyn, The Making of Haiti: The Saint- Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville, 1990).

Forsdick, Charles and Christian Høgsbjerg (eds), The Black Jacobins Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017).

Gaffield, Julia, ‘Haiti and Jamaica in the Remaking of the Early Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World’, William and Mary Quarterly, 69: 3 (2012), pp. 583-614.

Geggus, David, ‘The Haitian Revolution’, in Franklin W. Knight and Colin Palmer (eds), The Modern Caribbean (Chapel Hill, 1989), pp. 21-50.

Geggus, David, ed., The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (Columbia, 2001).

Geggus, David and Norman Fiering, eds, The World of the Haitian Revolution (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).

Girard, P. R., ‘Caribbean genocide: Racial war in Haiti, 1802–4’, Patterns of Prejudice, 39: 4 (2005), pp. 138-61.

Girard, P. R., 'The Haitian Revolution, History's New Frontier: State of the Scholarship and Archival Sources', Slavery and Abolition, 34 (2013), pp. 485-507.

Higman, Barry W., A Concise History of the Caribbean (Cambridge, 2011), chapter 5.

Knight, Franklin W., The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (2nd edition, Oxford, 1990), pp. 193-226.

Mintz, Sidney W., Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations (London, 2010), chapter 3, pp. 88-133.

Moya Pons, Frank, History of the Caribbean: Plantations, Trade, and War in the Atlantic World (London, 2007), chapters 7, 11 and 12.

Ott, Thomas, The Haitian Revolution, 1789-1804 (Knoxville, 1973).

Segal, R., Black Diaspora (London, 1995), chapter 12.

Tyson, George F., Toussaint L’Ouverture (New Jersey, 1973).

For more on the Haitian Revolution, you may want to check out the collaborative wiki called the Louverture Project, which has a number of digitised primary sources in the 'Documents' section, and also links to other online and bibliographical resources:

http://thelouvertureproject.org (8 September 2015)