Appointed As

John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Duke University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Dissertation Abstract

"Subjects of the King: Royalism and the Origins of the Haitian Revolution, 1763-1806"

Using newly discovered sources from Spanish and French archives, “Subjects of the King: Royalism and the Origins of the Haitian Revolution, 1763-1806,” re-examines the social, political, and cultural history of the Haitian Revolution. Specifically, I explore the royalist origins of the August 1791 slave revolts in the French colony of Saint Domingue that sparked the famous 1791-1804 Revolution. In addition to tracing the movements of multilingual border crossers of uncertain loyalty, I document a royalist counterrevolutionary movement that sought to destroy the republican ideals of the French Revolution and restore Louis XVI to the throne. The current scholarly consensus posits that important causal factors in igniting the revolts were French Republicanism and Enlightenment-era abolitionism. I do not refute these claims, but I contest their centrality, filling a historiographical void by pointing to royalism, a venerable phenomenon with African as well as European roots, as a counterintuitive emancipatory model. I show that Saint Dominguan revolutionaries were part of a long-entangled history on the shared island of Hispaniola within which African descendants acted as pivot points between the two colonies, often crossing the border and manipulating both French and Spanish institutions. In doing so, they fashioned a multifaceted royalist viewpoint that paradoxically depended on monarchical articulations of rights and freedoms. Ultimately, my study calls upon scholars to rethink the way in which the enslaved in Saint Domingue conceptualized freedom, challenging the assumption that royalism was a rigid historical counterpoint to Enlightenment ideals.