2016 Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Book Prize
Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World. Recognition after Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World is a ground-breaking work that deals with the relations between Haiti and the outside world during the years immediately following the Haitian declaration of independence in 1804. This was a crucial period for the young nation as no country recognized its emancipation. While Napoleon was busy conquering Europe, French authorities made desperate attempts to block Haiti’s relations with the outside world. Scholars have generally ackowledged that Haiti was treated as a threat to the secutiry of slaveholding societies and isolated by European powers and the United States. Julia Gaffield has written a book which persuasively challenges that assertion. She explored sources from American, Danish, Dutch, British and Spanish archives, and discovered that far from being sealed off in isolation, Haiti was able to maintain active commercial connections with a number of countries, including British colonies and the United States. At the same time, this most unusual situation raised a web of diplomatic, economic and legal questions that the author explores in great detail: issues related to the definition of sovereignty and legal rights that questioned Haiti’s status: was it still a French colony or an independent state? We see how the different conceptualizations of Haiti’s place in the Atlantic world shaped post-independence experiences and made for a diversity of foreign interactions with the new country. The author’s approach offers a significant model for thinking about international relations in less formal terms, showing how Haiti functioned de facto as a sovereign state in her relations with Britain, the United States and other nations long before formal diplomatic recognition. The committee felt that it was important to recognize this splendid book for the bright light it sheds on a unique moment in the history of the emancipation of Saint-Domingue.
Other Books Submitted
Marlene Daut, Tropics of Haiti. Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (Liverpool UP, 2015)
George Edward Milne, Natchez Country. Indians, Colonists, and the Landscapes of Race in French Louisiana (U of Georgia Press, 2015)
Michael McDonnell, Masters of Empire. Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America (Hill and Wang, 2015)
Carl Ekberg & Sharon Person, St Louis Rising. The French Regime of Louis St Ange de Bellerive (U. of Illinois Press, 2015)