Enslavement and Empire in the French Caribbean, 1793–1851
Joseph la Hausse de Lalouviere - PhD dissertation - final.pdf (11.54Mb)
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la Hausse de Lalouvière, Joseph
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Citationla Hausse de Lalouvière, Joseph. 2020. Enslavement and Empire in the French Caribbean, 1793–1851. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractSettlers in the French colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guiana enslaved, re-enslaved or illegally trafficked many tens of thousands of free black people in the five decades between general emancipation in the 1790s and the abolition of slavery by France in 1848. Re-enslavement on this historically unparalleled scale did not restore the slaveholding empire of the Old Regime. Instead it created a distinctively new colonial regime in which the boundary between the categories of “slave” and “free” blurred, and in which colonists routinely removed basic liberties from members of a growing African-descended population of uncertain status. Previous scholarship has analyzed the causes and effects of emancipation during the Haitian and French Revolutions. This dissertation investigates the power relations, institutions and social practices that revived slavery in their wake, thus helping to explain the persistence of slavery in the modern world.
Modern dimensions of the post-revolutionary French empire enabled slavery’s resurgence after the Haitian Revolution. Framing slave-ownership as a citizen’s right, colonial settlers mobilized new regimes of bureaucracy, private property and patriarchal authority to legitimize the enslavement of their black peers. Centralizing colonial administrations imposed bureaucratic requirements on people of African descent to present papers “proving” their freedom. Those who lacked suitable documents faced the perpetual threat of enslavement. People of color sought to counteract these policies by turning to the bureaucracy to document their freedom, but the institutionalized presumption of black people’s status as slaves rendered such appeals precarious.
Regional struggles shaped imperial reforms, producing uneven legal regimes and locally distinct patterns of re-enslavement. Proximity to the theater of conflict in Saint-Domingue meant that re-enslavement in Guadeloupe took the form of a paramilitary manhunt, whose reverberations reached neighboring Martinique. In the South American mainland colony of Guiana, by contrast, the relative ease with which those threatened with captivity could flee into the rainforest placed firmer limits on the re-imposition of slavery. Practices of illicit enslavement and slave trading also extended beyond the empire, as French merchants devised novel strategies to conceal their involvement in the now-prohibited transatlantic trade in captives. In all these ways, hostile reactions to revolution and emancipation in the French Caribbean brought into being new and enduring regimes of slavery.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368949
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