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The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon


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Philippe R. Girard is an associate professor and head of the Department of History at McNeese State University, USA. He is the author of Clinton in Haiti: The 1994 U.S. Invasion of Haiti and Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation.


Although dozens of authors have attempted to capture the meaning of and explain how Haiti won its independence from France, this fast-paced narrative is an excellent modern treatment that offers a welcome micro-examination of the day-to-day events that turned Toussaint Louverture from a loyal French governor into a formidable independence leader. But the author's claim to pathbreaking innovation is his argument that the Haitian War of Independence was as much about greed as about winning freedom for slaves. In fact, France abolished slavery in what is now Haiti in the very early years of the struggle in order to retain its grip on wealth from sugar. Saint-Domingue was then the richest colony in the world, and a prize consummately worth fighting for. That in part accounts, Girard (McNeese State Univ.) suggests, for the oft-compromised behavior of nearly all of the key actors in Haiti's independence struggle. Toussaint and Jean-Jacques Dessalines were consummate opportunists, the latter fighting both against and for slaves, the former having been a sometime slave-owner. Fortunately, Girard supports his striking claims by extensive archival research in at least four of the relevant languages. He also looks beyond Saint-Domingue to the wider international components of the war and how it was almost lost, and then won. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.

"It is readable and lively, and details an important and little-studied episode that had important implications for the long-term success of Napoleon and on the territorial expansion of the United States."--Stewart R. King, author of Blue Coal or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color inPreRevolutionary Saint Domingue and editor of Encyclopedia of Free Blacks and People of Color in the Americas.

Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4"This is an well-researched and important contribution to the study of the Haitian Revolution. Girard has drawn together a wide range of archival materials, as well as thoroughly mining printed primary sources, to present a richly detailed account of the war of independence."--Laurent R. Dubois, author Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution

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