The Haitian revolution was a complicated and trans-regional event, one that brought together actors, ideas, and institutions from three empires—France, Spain, and Great Britain—as well as the United States. The scholarship on the Haitian revolution, too, has been produced in a wide range of contexts and languages. The past decades have seen an explosion of such scholarship, notably in the United States, which has substantially expanded our understanding of the cultural, social, and political dynamics of the colony of Saint Domingue and the process that led to the creation of independent Haiti in 1804. But this scholarship has built on essential work by previous generations, most importantly on the work of Haitian historians going back to the 19th century, which those interested in the period should also continue to consult. This bibliography, necessarily selected, attempts to foreground what we consider to be the essential works on the period. While it is tilted toward the presentation of English-language sources, we have also included a selection of important French-language works.
Colonial Saint Domingue
The French acquired the western third of Hispaniola, Saint Domingue, as a colony in 1659. During the 18th century, French colonists transformed the colony into a land of export agriculture by establishing large sugar and coffee plantations as well as smaller indigo, cacao, and cotton plantations. The colonists purchased slaves from Africa through the transatlantic slave trade to labor these plantations. Saint Domingue quickly became an enormous source of wealth for metropolitan France. The population of the colony was overwhelmingly enslaved with a minority of whites and free people of color. Hector and Moïse 1990 is an excellent French-language overview of the history of Saint-Domingue. Cauna 2003 provides a detailed study of plantation life, and Garraway 2005 explores representations of sexuality in the colony. Frostin 1975 explores the political activities of the white population before the revolution, while McLellan 1992 examines the intellectual and scientific activities among the colony’s elite. Garrigus 2006 and King 2007 provide the most detailed studies of free people of color in Saint Domingue.
Cauna, Jacques de. Au temps des isles a sucre: Histoire d’une plantation de Saint-Domingue au XVIIIe siècle. Hommes et Sociétés. Paris: Karthala, 2003.
One of the most detailed studies of plantation life in Saint Domingue, based on plantation papers and correspondence from one major sugar plantation.
Frostin, Charles. Les révoltes blanches à Saint-Domingue aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Collection Histoire et Littérature Haïtiennes. Paris: L’École, 1975.
Examines the political mobilization among whites in Saint Domingue from its earliest days as a colony, providing a rich portrait of the governance and social life of the colony.
Garraway, Doris Lorraine. The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the Early French Caribbean. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
A study of French accounts of the social world of the French Antilles during the 17th and 18th centuries, with an emphasis on discourses surrounding gender and sexuality.
Garrigus, John D. Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue. Americas in the Early Modern Atlantic World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Provides an analysis of research on free people of color from the southern province of Saint Domingue, following the history of the group from colonial times through the revolution. Emphasizes the frontier nature of the colony and argues that this characteristic allowed for the development of a large mixed-race population and a society organized by a class hierarchy.
Hector, Michel, and Claude Moïse. Colonisation et esclavage en Haïti: Le régime colonial français à Saint-Domingue (1625–1789). Port-au-Prince: H. Deschamps, 1990.
An excellent overview of the colonial history of Saint Domingue by two of Haiti’s most important historians.
King, Stewart R. Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2007.
Studies the free colored population in Saint Domingue primarily using notarial records. Emphasizes distinctions between urban and rural groups and the occupations of individuals as planters or policemen and soldiers.
McLellan, James E. Colonialism and Science: Saint-Domingue in the Old Regime. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Through an exploration of Enlightenment culture and thought in colonial Saint Domingue, this book provides one of the most detailed portraits of the social and cultural life among the planter elite in the colony.
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