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The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon, 0817317325, 0-8173-1732-5, 978-0-8173-1732-4, 9780817317324, , Atlantic Crossings, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon, 0817385401, 0-8173-8540-1, 978-0-8173-8540-8, 9780817385408, , Atlantic Crossings, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon, 081735820X, 0-8173-5820-X, 978-0-8173-5820-4, 9780817358204, , Atlantic Crossing

The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon
Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence, 1801–1804
by Philippe R. Girard

Trade Cloth
2011. 456 pp.
Price:  $49.95 s
E Book
2011. 456 pp.
Price:  $49.95 d

To a contemporary audience, Haiti brings to mind Voodoo spells, Tontons Macoutes, and boat people--nothing worth fighting over. Two centuries ago, however, Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, was the “Pearl of the Antilles,” France's most valuable overseas colony, the largest exporter of tropical products in the world, and the United States' second most important trading partner after England.
Haiti was also the place where in 1801-1802 Napoléon Bonaparte sent the largest colonial venture of his reign: the Leclerc expedition. His goal was to remove the famous revolutionary Toussaint Louverture from office and, possibly, restore slavery. But within two years, the remnants of Bonaparte’s once-proud army were evacuated in defeated, and Haiti declared its independence. This forgotten yet momentous conflict, in which lives were consumed by the thousands, is this book’s main focus.
In this ambitious monograph, Philippe Girard employs the latest tools of the historian’s craft, multi-archival research in particular, and applies them to the climactic yet poorly understood last years of the Haitian Revolution. Haiti lost most of its archives to neglect and theft, but a substantial number of documents survive in French, U.S., British, and Spanish collections, both public and private. In all, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon relies on contemporary military, commercial, and administrative sources drawn from nineteen archives and research libraries on both sides of the Atlantic.
Due to its extensive archival basis, the book corrects the many factual inaccuracies that have plagued previous accounts. It also offers a more rounded view of the Haitian Revolution, going beyond mere military minutia to include the activities of U.S. merchants; the in-fighting within the French government; the diplomacy between both the French and revolutionaries with the United States, England, and Spain; and the lives of the maroons, women, and children caught up in the revolutionary struggle. This multidimensional work tells not only of barefoot black soldiers ambushing Bonaparte’s columns, but also of Rochambeau’s mixed-race mistresses, French child drummers, Jewish bankers in Kingston, weapon smugglers from Quaker Philadelphia, Polish artillerists, and African-born maroons struggling to preserve their freedom against both white and black opponents.
Equally groundbreaking is the book’s willingness to move beyond tidy ideological and racial categories to depict an Atlantic society at the crossroads of African and European influences, where Haitian rebels fought France while embracing its ideals. In the process, the reader is introduced to the extraordinary lives of multifaceted characters such as Wladyslaw Jablonowski, the son of a Polish woman and a black father who died fighting for France and white supremacy.

Philippe R. Girard is an associate professor and head of the Department of History at McNeese State University. 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.

“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

2012 MIchael Thomason Book Award given by the Gulf South Historical Association

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