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Black revolution–White slavery: Haiti, Greek revolutionaries and the reception of philhellenism



Black revolution–White slavery: Haiti, Greek revolutionaries and the reception of philhellenism


6 February 2021


"In January 1822, Haiti was the first free nation to internationally and officially recognise the Greek Revolution, even before Britain or the USA. The official letter of the president of the Republic of Haiti, Jean-Pierre Boyer, to the Greek revolutionaries is the only safe and sound, official document available, forming the basis for exploring the concept of philhellenism in this specific case. Immediately after the outbreak of the French Revolution, Haiti was the first nation to claim and achieve the realisation of the principles of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the West Indies, in a zone of the periphery of the world system, transformed the most lucrative slave colony into the first independent state, created after an armed struggle by slaves who became rebels, namely Haiti. While the Dual Revolution took the form of a European expansion in and conquest of the rest of the world, at the same time, Europe also exported the power of its ideology, European civilisation at large. These were the means, the very weapons of Europe, which the peoples of the world used to shake off European domination in the outer European world, or any yoke or tyranny worldwide, through armed struggle in order to urge national and liberal demands and gain their freedom. The Black Haitian Revolution, the first black revolution worldwide leading to the creation of a new nation, a new free and independent state, was at the same time, the research argues, the one that haunted the White French Revolution. Consequently, how is philhellenism perceived in this very case of Haiti? Is it about an expression of ethnic-liberal or liberal tendencies, an impact of romanticism and the global reach of ancient Greek culture, a phenomenon of transnational nature, an artistic field? Is this, in a broader sense, about the power of solidarity and the global unifying power of the principles of the enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen? Apart from the limited, official archival documentation, the comparison and the analogies or differentiations between the Haitian and the Greek Revolution offer rich insights into the complex parameters of philhellenism and its interpretation and understanding in this very case of the Haitian Republic, which this study aims to identify, examine and analyse in multiple, promising and most enlightening fields of investigation."

(Slightly modified abstract from the Initiative 1821-2021 website)

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This presentation dod not take place at the conference.

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