Reviews and Responses: A Panel - The Haitian Revolution: Viewed 200 Years After

From TLP
Jump to: navigation, search


"Reviews and Responses: A Panel." The Haitian Revolution: Viewed 200 Years After, an International Scholarly Conference. John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI. June 20, 2004.


Following are rough notes of the panel discussion, taken by Stuart Maxwell on June 20, 2004.

Participants were: Chair: David Brion Davis, Yale University; Bernard Bailyn, Harvard University; Robin Blackburn, University of Essex; Seymour Drescher, University of Pittsburgh; Sidney Mintz, Johns Hopkins University.

Bernard Bailyn

  • This wasn't a revolution. It was the unfolding of a process whose deepest urge was emancipation.
  • It was a vast and irreversibly transformative event that brought an end to Atlantic civilization as it had been known.
  • It wasn't, in fact, "unthinkable," but quite thinkable revolution [note, this is a rejection of an over-simplification of Michel-Rolph Trouillot's oft-repeated quote, IMHO], a movement of tectonic plates, presaged by rumblings and near-quakes.
  • Failure in Haiti redefined the world, not just in France selling the Louisiana Territory, but in the fall of European colonialism. It opened the door to the dominance of the US in the Western hemisphere.

Sidney Mintz

  • The period saw the rise of plantation commodities.
  • Affranchis had developed great power and influence, which was disturbing to Saint-Domingue society.

Seymour Drescher

  • The period from 1791 - 1831 saw the flow of sugar go from extraordinarily high to almost nothing.

Robin Blackburn

  • Haitian spectacle had an impact directly on British consideration of slavery.
  • Jefferson was frightened by seeing whites helping blacks to achieve emancipation.


  • [Brazilian scholar whose name I didn't catch:] There was also a "slow war" against slavery - the individual resistance that made it too costly to hold slaves. Immigrant labor became cheaper.
  • Malick Ghachem - The Haitian Revolution forced historians to talk differently about American and French revolutions - why didn't the Americans resolve the slave question?
  •  ?Davis?: Slavery-produced commodities produced an economic engine.