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The Haitian Declaration of Independence

Creation, Context, and Legacy
Edited by Julia Gaffield

BUY Cloth · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813937878 · $39.50 · Jan 2016
BUY Ebook · 296 pp. · ISBN 9780813937885 · $39.50 · Jan 2016

While the Age of Revolution has long been associated with the French and American Revolutions, increasing attention is being paid to the Haitian Revolution as the third great event in the making of the modern world. A product of the only successful slave revolution in history, Haiti’s Declaration of Independence in 1804 stands at a major turning point in the trajectory of social, economic, and political relations in the modern world. This declaration created the second independent country in the Americas and certified a new genre of political writing. Despite Haiti’s global significance, however, scholars are only now beginning to understand the context, content, and implications of the Haitian Declaration of Independence.

This collection represents the first in-depth, interdisciplinary, and integrated analysis by American, British, and Haitian scholars of the creation and dissemination of the document, its content and reception, and its legacy. Throughout, the contributors use newly discovered archival materials and innovative research methods to reframe the importance of Haiti within the Age of Revolution and to reinterpret the declaration as a founding document of the nineteenth-century Atlantic World.

The authors offer new research about the key figures involved in the writing and styling of the document, its publication and dissemination, the significance of the declaration in the creation of a new nation-state, and its implications for neighboring islands. The contributors also use diverse sources to understand the lasting impact of the declaration on the country more broadly, its annual celebration and importance in the formation of a national identity, and its memory and celebration in Haitian Vodou song and ceremony. Taken together, these essays offer a clearer and more thorough understanding of the intricacies and complexities of the world’s second declaration of independence to create a lasting nation-state.


A terrific book—timely and original. The boom in Haitian revolutionary studies (which has been shaped in critical ways by many of the authors in this collection) is producing a new wave of English-language work on post-independence Haiti. This book addresses this growing interest in the early Haitian state and the legacies of the Haitian Revolution not just in the Atlantic World but in Haiti itself. A very strong, interesting collection with broad appeal.

—Ada Ferrer, New York University, author of Freedom's Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution

This landmark collection offers the first detailed examination of one of the most neglected documents in modern world history. Julia Gaffield and the other contributors offer a comprehensive account of the creation, meaning, and legacy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence. The essays demonstrate both Haiti’s deep links with the Atlantic World and the distinctiveness of the Haitian case.

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, California State University San Marcos, editor of Haitian History: New Perspectives

The contributions to this wonderful collection confirm the Revolution’s significance on a global stage and also reckon with Haiti on its own terms. Put another way, [this volume] compellingly testifies to the vast amount of material work still to be done on Haiti’s early years. The essays in this volume not only make significant inroads into this work but also indicate useful directions and methods for further scholarly inquiry. As such, Gaffield’s collection both offers a fascinating aperture into reconfigurations of comparative studies and serves as an extremely helpful guidebook for scholars interested in the Haitian Revolution.

Small Axe

This collection of essays showcases some of the most recent conceptual innovations in Haitian Revolution scholarship, as well as some of the more prominent ongoing debates among scholars of this era.... [T]his volume represents many of the best trends in the growing field of Haitian history. It is broad, engaging, and innovative enough to belong on the shelf alongside comparable collections.

Journal of Social History

Julia Gaffield has gathered a diverse collection of essays that both engage with extant historiography on the Haitian Revolution and, crucially, push discussions forward into state making after 1804.... The collection is a harbinger that a rich body of literature may now look more steadily forward into postrevolutionary decades.

Early American Literature

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