From Saint Domingue to Haiti, The Revolution that Shook the Atlantic World, 1791 to 1804

By all measures, the Saint-Domingue Revolution of 1791–1804, also known as the Haitian Revolution, transformed the modern world. The American Revolution (1776), and the French Revolution (1789) were fought for the principles of self-determination, liberty, equality, and fraternity, but applied them to white men only—while maintaining a system of chattel slavery in the New World. The Saint-Domingue/Haitian Revolution, fought by black slaves and free people of color, challenged the premises of colonialism, slavery, and white supremacy, declaring that the ideals of equality, liberty, and self-determination belonged to all humanity, thereby making it the first truly modern revolution. If, by definition, modernity includes a belief in the universal equality of the human race, then the Saint-Domingue/Haitian Revolution was the first of the modern epoch—associated with the rise of global capitalism in the 16th century— to have been fought for that purpose. This short course will examine the characteristics of the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the 18th century: its class and racial order; the system of chattel slavery and plantation production; and other factors that led to the revolution that culminated in Saint-Domingue declaring its independence from France in 1804 and renaming itself the Republic of Haiti. PRINCIPAL READING: C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Vintage Books Edition, 1963/1989).

Instructor: Alex Dupuy

Three Wednesdays: October 11, 18, 25  

5:30-7:30 P.M.

Wasch Center, Butterfield Room  



Alex Dupuy

ALEX DUPUY  came to Wesleyan in 1982 and is John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus. He has published broadly on social, economic, and political developments in Haiti and the Caribbean. In addition to dozens of articles in professional journals and anthologies, his books include Haiti in the World Economy: Class, Race, and Underdevelopment Since 1700 (1989); Haiti in the New World Order: The Limits of the Democratic Revolution (1997); The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community, and Haiti (2007); and Haiti: From Revolutionary Slaves to Powerless Citizens: Essays on the Politics and Economics of Underdevelopment (2014).