Layers of Recognition: Haiti and the Atlantic World
Abstract: Scholars have explained the delayed acceptance of a sovereign and independent Haiti by focusing on the Revolution’s potent challenge to colonialism and slavery. France only recognized Haitian independence in 1825, two decades after the Haitian declaration of independence; Great Britain and the Netherlands implicitly recognized the country only in 1826, and the United States not until 1862. They highlight the fear and racism of the international community that attempted to contain the implications of the world’s only successful slave revolution. The historiography has created a binary of recognition and non-recognition – the two options after the Haitian Revolution, scholars typically emphasize, were independence or isolation. Haiti’s freedom and independence, this perspective assumes, were so anomalous in the Caribbean in the early nineteenth century that it posed a threat that could only be met with full refusal. My paper, however, argues that during the early independence period, full participation was limited, but international governments could in fact imagine a compromise that fell somewhere between recognition and non-recognition.
Bio: Julia Gaffield is a recent Ph.D. from the History Department at Duke University. Her dissertation, “‘So many schemes in agitation’: Haiti and the Atlantic World,” studies Haiti’s role in the re-making of the Atlantic World in the early 19th century. The point of departure for this work is Haiti’s Declaration of Independence in 1804 and explores how events in Haiti raised profound questions about revolutionary legitimacy and national sovereignty.