Moreau de Saint-Méry: Print Culture, Slavery and the Multilingual American Enlightenment


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines the work of the Caribbean “philosophe” Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750-1819). A refugee of both French and Haitian revolutions, he was an early practitioner of hemispheric American historiography. The book places Moreau at the center of a narrative that explores the multilingual underpinnings of Enlightenment-era thought among slaveholding intellectuals. As such, it analyzes Moreau’s collaborations with Italian printers, Chinese watercolorists, French and North American typesetters, and his own mixed-raced family. The book simultaneously documents the “shadow army” of people of African descent who undergirded Moreau’s work on multiple levels, from the people he personally enslaved to those who served as interlocutors in his legal tomes and natural histories. The project makes Moreau’s intellectual environment tangible by highlighting the cacophony of languages, the warring perspectives, and the physical torture and despair that raged around him in the context of forced migration and the continuous struggle for freedom.