Haiti is a country in the midst of a political and human crisis, the sheer extent of which became visible to the world in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake in 2010. This is quite a contrast with the country whose independence was the result of the first and only successful slave revolution in the New World. The stark disconnect between the hope of two centuries ago and the contemporary situation can only be understood by revisiting Haiti's long history. First a Spanish colony (Hispaniola) then a French one (Saint-Domingue), in the eighteenth century this western third of a small island was one of the richest colonies in the world, the world's top producer of sugar and then of coffee. It also became a sort of testing ground for European colonial slavery, where racial and social tensions become so strained that they erupted into a bloody revolution that the French found themselves unable to suppress. Once independent, Haiti was only slowly recognized by other countries and was forced to pay an indemnity to France that was so enormous it stunted attempts to restructure the economy for over a century. Throughout its history, Haiti strove for democracy, but was blocked at every turn, either undermined by internal conflicts, a lengthy occupation by the U.S.A., or dependence on international intervention. And yet this nation has given rise to a wonderful culture and extraordinarily dynamic Diaspora. In this class we will try to understand this long and complicated history and discover some of the many intellectual and artistic achievements that mark it.
- Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian revolution, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2005 (paperback).
- Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, New York, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2012.
A weekly short paper on the documents and the readings (1 p. posted on C-Tools by 5:00 pm Saturday) and a final paper of 8-12 pages on a topic chosen with the instructor.
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