Saint Domingue

Required reading:

Franklin W. Knight, “The Haitian Revolution,” The American Historical Review, 105:1 (February 2000)

Carolyn E. Fick, “The Haitian Revolution and The Limits of Freedom: Defining Citizenship in The Revolutionary Era,” Social History, 32:4 (November 2007)

Laurent Dubois, “The Price of Liberty: Victor Hugues and the Administration of Freedom in Guadeloupe, 1794-1798,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 56:2 (April 1999)


The Free Citizens of Color, “Address to the National Assembly” (1789)

Abbé Gregoire, “Letter to the Citizens of Color and Free Negroes of Saint-Domingue” (1791)

The National Assembly, “Law on The Colonies” (1791)             

Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Slavery” (1780 – 1790)

Seminar Topic:

From its origins in 1789, the French Revolution sparked a debate on the issue of slavery and the status of the French Atlantic colonies vis-à-vis the nation. This seminar will examine how the French Revolution unfolded in the broader Atlantic world, with a particular focus on the sugar rich colony of Saint Domingue. We will examine how the spread of revolutionary ideas revealed contradictions in the principles espoused by revolutionaries and ultimately served to destabilize France’s empire, bringing into existence the new democratic republic of Haiti founded by former slaves.

Questions to consider

  1. How did the issue of race complicate the revolutionary movement in the colonies?
  2. What tensions came to the surface regarding the concept of revolutionary equality as it spread across the French Atlantic?
  3. What compels Laurent Dubois to claim that a unique brand of “republican racism” was evident behind declarations of equality and emancipation?
  4. How did Saint Domingue and the Haitian Revolution shape conceptions of citizenship and universal rights during the age of revolution?

Further Reading:

John Garrigus, Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue. Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006.

Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Alan Forrest. The Death of the French Atlantic: Trade War and Slavery in the Age of Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

William S. Cormack, Patriots, Royalists, and the Terrorists in the West Indies. The French Revolution in Martinique and Guadeloupe 1789–1802. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019.

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. New York: Belknap Press, 2005.

Laurent Dubois, “An Enslaved Enlightenment: Rethinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic,” Social History, 31:1 (February 2006)

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Saint Domingo Revolution. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Jean Casimir. The Haitians: A Decolonial History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020.

Miranda Spieler, “Abolition and Reenslavement in the Caribbean: The Revolution in French Guiana,” in Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt and William Max Nelson, eds., The French Revolution in Global Perspective. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

Robin Blackburn, “Haiti, Slavery and The Age of Democratic Revolution,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 63:4 (October 2006)

Philippe R. Girard, “Napoleon Bonaparte and the Emancipation Issue in Saint-Domingue, 1799-1803,” French Historical Studies, 32:4 (Fall 2009)

Jane G. Landers, Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Ashli White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2010.