Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life

Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life

by Philippe Girard


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The definitive biography of the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, leader of the only successful slave revolt in world history

Toussaint Louverture's life was one of hardship, triumph, and contradiction. Born into bondage in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), the richest colony in the Western Hemisphere, he witnessed first-hand the torture of the enslaved population. Yet he managed to secure his freedom and establish himself as a small-scale planter. He even purchased slaves of his own.

In Toussaint Louverture, Philippe Girard reveals the dramatic story of how Louverture transformed himself from lowly freedman to revolutionary hero. In 1791, the unassuming Louverture masterminded the only successful slave revolt in history. By 1801, he was general and governor of Saint-Domingue, and an international statesman who forged treaties with Britain, France, Spain, and the United States-empires that feared the effect his example would have on their slave regimes. Louveture's ascendency was short-lived, however. In 1802, he was exiled to France, dying soon after as one of the most famous men in the world, variously feared and celebrated as the "Black Napoleon."

As Girard shows, in life Louverture was not an idealist, but an ambitious pragmatist. He strove not only for abolition and independence, but to build Saint-Domingue's economic might and elevate his own social standing. He helped free Saint-Domingue's slaves yet immediately restricted their rights in the interests of protecting the island's sugar production. He warded off French invasions but embraced the cultural model of the French gentility.

In death, Louverture quickly passed into legend, his memory inspiring abolitionist, black nationalist, and anti-colonialist movements well into the 20th century. Deeply researched and bracingly original, Toussaint Louverture is the definitive biography of one of the most influential people of his era, or any other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465094134
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Philippe Girard is a professor of history at McNeese State in Louisiana and the author of four books on Haitian history. A native of the Caribbean, he studied in France and the United States. In 2014, he was a research fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University. He lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Aristocrat, c. 1740 7

2 Child, c 1743-1754 17

3 Slave, 1754 25

4 Revolutionary Apprentice, 1757-1773 33

5 Family Man, 1761-1785 43

6 Freedman, c. 1772-1779 53

7 Slave Driver, 1779-1781 65

8 Muleteer, 1781-1789 77

9 Witness, 1788-1791 91

10 Rebel, 1791 105

11 Monarchist, 1792 121

12 Spanish Officer, 1793-1794 129

13 French Patriot, 3794-1796 147

14 Politician, 1796-1798 163

15 Diplomat, 1798-1800 177

16 Planter, 1800-1801 189

17 Governor General, Early 1801 203

18 God? Late 1801 217

19 Renegade, Early 1802 229

20 Prisoner, 1802-1803 245

21 Icon, 1803-Present 253

Acknowledgments 265

Notes 267

Bibliographic Essay 319

Index 325

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