This essay examines contests over Haitian history between Haitian state actors and British observers—such as diplomats, travel writers, and “journalists”—around the time of Haiti’s commemorations of the centenary of independence in 1904. This was a time for the Haitian people to reflect on the great achievement of Haitian independence and the exploits of Haiti’s past heroes, and for the Haitian state to remind its people of the commitment to remaining independent in the face of mounting imperialist intervention. British observers reacted to Haitian memories of the Wars of Independence and the calls to maintain that independence in accordance with their imperialistic ambitions in the Caribbean. The contest over Haitian history thus became a means through which to discuss the nature of imperial control and black independence in the Atlantic world. In the creation of each of these narratives of Haitian history, this essay argues, were “bundles” of silences.
Silence and Specters: The British Empire and the 1904 Haitian Commemorations of Independence
Jack Daniel Webb is a lecturer in the Division of History, University of Manchester, whose focus is the cultural history of the Caribbean and the British Empire. His forthcoming monograph, Haiti in the British Imagination, 1847–1904 (2019), examines the various ways the postcolonial and “black” state was rationalized by those with interests in the British Empire. His other work explores the lives of Windrush migrants to Great Britain, in particular their relationship with projects of decolonization.
Jack Daniel Webb; Silence and Specters: The British Empire and the 1904 Haitian Commemorations of Independence. Small Axe 1 March 2019; 23 (1 (58)): 1–16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7374406
Download citation file: