The French colony Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) was the site of the first successful revolt in history by enslaved people, a revolt that began in the summer of 1791 and culminated with the burning of the only remaining merchant city, Cap français (now Cap Haïtien) in the summer of 1793. We will be tracking the slow collapse of the planter society, economy, and government through a study of the "shipping news" columns of three digitized newspapers: Les Affiches américains, La Gazette de Saint-Domingue, and Le Moniteur général de la partie française de Saint-Domingue. Meeting weekly and working together, the student and I will assemble a dataset of the trade connections between Haiti, France, and Africa, the captains and ships who sailed the slave routes before the revolt, and their transition to cargo shipping after the revolt began. We will also be able to track the overall decline of trade and the collapse of the colony's economy.
The student researcher will be compiling the shipping data from the three newspapers. A reading knowledge of French is highly desirable, but not absolutely essential, if the student is willing to learn a few words of the basic standard vocabulary used in the brief reports. Students interested in French and Haitian history will learn about the revolutionary period, the politics and global reach of "old" colonialism, and the creative use of sources in the establishment of historical knowledge.