The Caisse des Libertés and the Politics of Manumission in Colonial Haiti

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Friday, October 28th, 2022

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This paper addresses a long-standing narrative of the origins of the Haitian Revolution, which locates one of the principal motivating factors of the breakdown of French colonial rule in a hardening of racial lines particularly after 1763 and in particular, a declining status of free people of colour. In particular, historians have pointed to the growing propensity of colonial authorities to restrict manumission of slaves. The recent discovery by the authors of the accounts of the disgraced colonial receiver-general, however, prompts a reevaluation of the conventional narrative, suggesting greater ambiguity of both colonial whites and French administrators towards free people of colour. This paper affords the opportunity to reflect on the disjunctures between government policies and their practice.

Nancy Christie is Visiting Research Professor at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, and Adjunct Research Professor at the University of Western Ontario. She is the author of four major monographs, including most recently, THE FORMAL AND INFORMAL POLITICS OF BRITISH RULE IN POST-CONQUEST QUEBEC, 1760-1837: A NORTHERN BASTILLE (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), and nine edited volumes, most recently, VOICES IN THE LEGAL ARCHIVES IN THE FRENCH COLONIAL WORLD: ‘THE KING IS LISTENING’ (London & New York: Routledge, 2021), which emerged from a conference which she organized. Her work has received the highest scholarly distinctions, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historical Association and the Harold Adams Innis Prize of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada.

Michael Gauvreau is Professor of History at McMaster University. He is an expert in the history of Canada and Québec, and his interests more recently have turned to the history of the pre-1789 French colonial world. He is author of five major scholarly monographs and several collaborative editorial projects. HIs books have received scholarly recognition, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historial Association and the Harold Adams Innis Prize of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada.


Larysa Iarovenko


Michael Gauvreau
McMaster University

Nancy Chrisite
University of Western Ontario and visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University

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