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Encountering Revolution

, 280 pages

11 halftones

February 2010



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Encountering Revolution

Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic

Winner, 2011 Gilbert Chinard Prize, Society for French Historical Studies and the Institut Français d’Amérique

Encountering Revolution looks afresh at the profound impact of the Haitian Revolution on the early United States. The first book on the subject in more than two decades, it redefines our understanding of the relationship between republicanism and slavery at a foundational moment in American history.

For postrevolutionary Americans, the Haitian uprising laid bare the contradiction between democratic principles and the practice of slavery. For thirteen years, between 1791 and 1804, slaves and free people of color in Saint-Domingue battled for equal rights in the manner of the French Revolution. As white and mixed-race refugees escaped to the safety of U.S. cities, Americans were forced to confront the paradox of being a slaveholding republic, recognizing their own possible destiny in the predicament of the Haitian slaveholders.

Historian Ashli White examines the ways Americans—black and white, northern and southern, Federalist and Democratic Republican, pro- and antislavery—pondered the implications of the Haitian Revolution.

Encountering Revolution convincingly situates the formation of the United States in a broader Atlantic context. It shows how the very presence of Saint-Dominguan refugees stirred in Americans as many questions about themselves as about the future of slaveholding, stimulating some of the earliest debates about nationalism in the early republic.

Ashli White is an assistant professor of history at the University of Miami.

"White has written the go-to or standard account of the Haitian Revolution’s impact on the United States."

"White's volume dovetails nicely with earlier studies of American thoughts about the Haitian Revolution and helps show how the revolution's potential explosiveness was rendered moot by southern commentators wielding American exceptionalism."

"Drawing upon broader historiographies of the Haitian Revolution, Atlantic world, and the early republic, White focuses on the interactions between US residents and Saint-Dominguan refugees to demonstrate how revolutionary refugees confronted post-revolutionary Americans with their status as a slaveholding republic."

"This richly detailed study is especially important in extending our understanding of the impact of the Haitian Revolution on U.S. society back to the 1790s and to other strata beyond its elite political class."

"A strong contribution toward understanding the Haitian Revolution's political impact on the United States."

"A serious work of sober analysis, it has been written with great patience and scholarly care, making it accessible to seasoned researchers and undergraduates alike."

"In this timely study, Ashli White offers a concise synthesis of much of this literature and provides a fresh and exciting analysis of Haiti's influence on the early American republic."

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