In August 1791, enslaved Africans on the northern plain of Saint Domingue (colonial Haiti) rose up in a coordinated attack against their French colonial masters, launching the initial revolt in what would come to be known as the Haitian Revolution. In the years that followed, their actions forced the legal abolition of racial discrimination, and then the abolition of slavery, throughout the French Empire. Ultimately, when Napoleon Bonaparte threatened to return slavery to Saint Domingue, they waged a war for independence. After defeating the Napoleonic army, these former slaves then declared the world’s first “Black Republic,” the independent state of Haiti, in 1804. This seminar will examine some of the major themes and debates surrounding Haiti’s colonial and revolutionary history. We will begin with the colonial paradox: France’s leading role in the intellectual movement called the “Enlightenment” coincided with its ascent as a slaveholding power. We then examine parallels and points of connection between revolutionary movements in France and the Caribbean. Revolutionary principles like “freedom,” “equality,” and “citizenship” resonated differently in Saint Domingue, where leaders struggled to implement them in ways that would endure. The course also considers the influence of African political ideologies and local religious practices (Vodou) on the revolutionaries’ organizational capacity and motivation. Finally, we ask how the revolution in Saint Domingue—and the birth of Haiti--influenced ideas about liberty, sovereignty and freedom throughout the slaveholding Atlantic world, specifically in the U.S. and Cuba. As we dive into the growing historical literature on this period, we will pay special attention to the question of primary sources. How should we read texts produced during the revolutionary period differently from those produced by later scholars? How can we use the surviving primary sources—generated almost exclusively by colonial officials and elites—to access the experiences of the ex-slave revolutionaries?
Day and Time: 
W 0200PM-0500PM
Cross Listings: