A Haitian Revolution Primer

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Battle scene of the Haitian revolutionary war as imagined by the painter Suchodolski.
The Haitian Revolution can seem at times like a tangled thicket of stories, motives, characters, and events. To get the lay of the land, we suggest you start here, with these links to the essential characters and events of the period. Note that you might find the Timeline a useful resource as you read. Also check out the List of Books for in-depth resources.


Start with An Overview of the Haitian Revolution to get the satellite picture of the period.

Read about the major figures of the revolution...

Toussaint Louverture, this former slave became the leading general and statesman of the revolution.
Léger Félicité Sonthonax, a French Commissioner who freed 15,000 slaves in 1793.
Comte de Laveaux, French Governor-General of Saint-Domingue, a close friend of Toussaint.
Jean Jacques Dessalines, a general in the rebel army, he would become the first leader of Haiti.
Henry Christophe, rebel general, he would later become Emperor of Haiti.
André Rigaud, leader of the mulattos during the rebellion.
Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, Napoléon Bonaparte's brother-in-law, leader of the expedition to retake Saint-Domingue and re-institute slavery.

Continue with major events of the revolution...

The Boukman Rebellion
Rise of Toussaint
Toussaint's Volte Face
Toussaint's 1801 Constitution
Leclerc's Secret Orders
Haitian Independence

Finish with such perspectives as...

The Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase
Haiti and America during the Quasi War
Haiti's impact on the Atlantic and the Caribbean
The legacy of the revolution
Common Misconceptions about the Revolution

See also