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Seminar: A revolutionary Caribbean?

In this seminar we will discuss whether we can draw meaningful comparisons between the Haitian (1791-1804) and Cuban (1958) Revolutions, and whether it is possible to identify a revolutionary Caribbean 'tradition' with its origins in the particular circumstances of the region.

Seminar questions

Here are some broad questions relating to this theme, although please see below for the specific questions we will address when we meet.

  • Compare and contrast the causes and consequences of the Haitian and Cuban Revolutions.
  • In the appendix to the 1963 edition of The Black Jacobins, C. L. R. James argued that ‘Castro’s revolution is of the twentieth century as much as Toussaint’s was of the eighteenth. But despite the distance of over a century and a half, both are West Indian’ (p. 305). Do you agree? Explain your answer.
  • ‘The revolutions in St. Domingue and Cuba were exceptions to a general history of social and political stability in the Caribbean’. Discuss.

Required reading

Everyone should read the following:

James, C. L. R., The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London, 2001, new edition), appendix to 1963 edition.

Knight, Franklin W., The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (New York; Oxford, 1990, 2nd edition), pp. 227-256.

Further reading

Hall, Stuart, ‘Breaking bread with history: C. L. R. James and The Black Jacobins’, interviewed by Bill Schwarz, History Workshop Journal, 46 (1998), pp. 17-31.

Blackburn, Robin, ‘The Black Jacobins and New World Slavery’, in Selwyn R. Cudjoe and William E. Cain (eds), C. L. R. James: His Intellectual Legacies (Boston, 1995) pp.81-97.

Buhle, Paul, C. L. R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (London, 1988).

Dhondy, Farrukh, C. L. R. James: Cricket, the Caribbean, and World Revolution (London, 2001).

Høgsbjerg, Christian, ‘C. L. R. James and The Black Jacobins’, International Socialism Journal (April 2010).

Howe, Stephen ‘C. L. R. James: visions of history, visions of Britain’, in Bill Schwarz (ed.), West Indian Intellectuals in Britain (Manchester, 2003), pp.153-174.

James, C. L. R., The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London, 2001 Penguin edition; originally published 1938).

Kaplan, Cora, ‘Black Heroes/White Writers: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Literary Imagination’, History Workshop Journal, 46 (1998).