Long neglected in mainstream history books, the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) is now being claimed across a range of academic disciplines as an event of world-historical importance. The former slaves’ victory over their French masters and the creation of the independent nation of Haiti in 1804 is being newly heralded not only as a seminal moment in the transnational formation of the ‘black Atlantic’ but as the most far-reaching manifestation of ‘Radical Enlightenment’.
The best known Haitian writer to emerge in the years after the revolution is Baron de Vastey (1781–1820), who authored over ten books and pamphlets between 1814 and his murder in 1820. His first and most incendiary work, Le système colonial dévoilé (1814), provides a moving invocation of the horrors of slavery in pre-revolutionary Saint-Domingue. Its trailblazing critique of colonialism anticipates by over a hundred years the anticolonial politics (and poetics) of Césaire, Fanon, and Sartre.
Translated here for the first time, Vastey’s forceful unveiling of the colonial system will be compulsory reading for scholars across the humanities.
Reviews'In this first-rate critical edition, Bongie illuminates the significance of Baron de Vastey’s Le système colonial dévoilé well beyond the field of Haitian Studies. Indeed, he argues that The Colonial System Unveiled “can legitimately be considered the first systemic critique of colonialism ever written, certainly from the perspective of a colonized subject”. With the book now available in English for the first time, many new readers will be amply persuaded.'
Ada Ferrer, New York University
'The volume performs the great service of renewing attention to the remarkable and little understood figure of Vastey, and more broadly to the need for further research on a less well-known period of the Haitian revolutionary era.'
John Savage and Sean Anderson, H-France Review
'The volume performs the great service of renewing attention to the remarkable and little understood figure of Vastey, and more broadly to the need for further research on a less well-known period of the Haitian revolutionary era. ...This volume holds great interest not only for specialists of the Haitian Revolution, French Empire, or Atlantic World slavery, but also for scholars of transhistorical African Diaspora studies and a broader postcolonial intellectual history.'
John Savage and Sean Anderson, Lehigh University, H-France Review