Even before the 2010 earthquake destroyed much of the country, Haiti was known as a benighted place of poverty and corruption. Maligned and misunderstood, the nation has long been blamed by many for its own wretchedness. But as acclaimed historian Laurent Dubois makes clear, Haiti's troubled present can only be understood by examining its complex past. The country's difficulties are inextricably rooted in its founding revolution—the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world; the hostility that this rebellion generated among the colonial powers surrounding the island nation; and the intense struggle within Haiti itself to define its newfound freedom and realize its promise.
Dubois vividly depicts the isolation and impoverishment that followed the 1804 uprising. He details how the crushing indemnity imposed by the former French rulers initiated a devastating cycle of debt, while frequent interventions by the United States—including a twenty-year military occupation—further undermined Haiti's independence. At the same time, Dubois shows, the internal debates about what Haiti should do with its hard-won liberty alienated the nation's leaders from the broader population, setting the stage for enduring political conflict. Yet as Dubois demonstrates, the Haitian people have never given up on their struggle for true democracy, creating a powerful culture insistent on autonomy and equality for all.
Revealing what lies behind the familiar moniker of "the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere," this indispensable book illuminates the foundations on which a new Haiti might yet emerge.
The core of The Plantation Machine addresses the Seven Years' War and its aftermath. The events of that period, notably a slave poisoning scare in Saint-Domingue and a near-simultaneous slave revolt in Jamaica, cemented white dominance in both colonies. Burnard and Garrigus argue that local political concerns, not emerging racial ideologies, explain the rise of distinctive forms of racism in these two societies. The American Revolution provided another imperial crisis for the beneficiaries of the plantation machine, but by the 1780s whites in each place were prospering as never before—and blacks were suffering in new and disturbing ways. The result was that Jamaica and Saint-Domingue became vitally important parts of the late eighteenth-century American empires of Britain and France.
One of the main contentions of this work is that the failure of both monarchical and Revolutionary regimes to deal with the massive social problem of poverty played a far larger part in explaining the collapse of the Bourbons in 1789, and the failure of democracy during the 1790s, than most historians have allowed. Likewise, the importance of religion in directing the momentous events of this period has also been under-estimated.
Wealth and Disaster follows the emigrant Lamerenx and Mouscardy families over three generations and various locations across the Caribbean. Pierre Force traces their white and mixed-race descendants from the early-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries and over decades of comings and goings between their French ancestral town and Saint-Domingue, Cuba, and New Orleans. A chance encounter in a French archive led Force to uncover an epic saga, a fascinating and character-driven story of pirates, revolution, staggering riches, financial ruination, natural disaster, harsh imprisonment, and the rise of the plantation economy.
By observing the circulation of a few individuals between the Pyrenees and the Caribbean, Force is able to show how these two worlds became interconnected. Arguing that who emigrated and how depended on one’s position in the Pyrenean house-based system, Force also reveals how capital accumulation in Saint-Domingue relied on Pyrenean networks and how, in turn, wealth acquired in America changed the rules of the game back home. An exciting and accessible history, Wealth and Disaster offers riveting insight into the matrimonial strategies and inheritance customs of French rural society and the resulting choices to emigrate or to stay.
General Alex Dumas is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiar—because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. TIME magazine called The Black Count "one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible." But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.