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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 22 March 2013
This book is a sweeping portrayal of the history of Haiti from the revolution to the tyrannical rule of Papa and Baby Doc, the rise to power of Jean Bertrand Aristide and the earthquake of Jan 2010. It is well written and outlines the shortcomings of Haiti's former leaders - from L'Ouverture, Dessalines, Christophe and many other unknown leaders who tried and failed to rule in the interests of the majority and were made to fail; those like the Docs who were backed to the hilt by empire and the former colonial masters and pillaged and plundered the country. The aftershocks of the Haitian revolution of 1804 continue to be felt today for that island continues to be punished for the audacity of seeking self-determination in choosing its first democratically elected leader and party in Fanmi Lavalas and Aristide. The Haitian elite and their American backers have continued to hold the Haitian people in contempt. The sympathies of the author lie correctly with the aspirations of the Haitian masses.
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on 14 December 2013
This is a reasonably well-organized work summarizing Haitian history between 1804 and 1963. For historical events before and after this, the book offers only a very terse summary.

There are few surprises in this book; most of the material has been available for decades and other books before have covered the same material, but few one-volume histories of Haiti exist (Heinl & Heinl's Written in Blood [1996] is difficult to find copies of). One point is that the book focuses on the depressing aspects of Haitian history, of which there are many, and then gets overwhelmed by the parade of horrors. In contrast, Elizabeth Abbott's Haiti: A Shattered Nation(2011) paints a more detailed picture by focusing on a smaller scope (viz., the end of Duvalierism).

While Dubois's narrative is mostly satisfactory, it implies that the efforts to insert Haiti into the global industrial system have failed: this is not the case, and explains a lot. I point this out because Dubois has set out to explain Haiti's present with an account of its political history; he occasionally refers to failed efforts by the elites/foreign interlocutors to modernize the economy, which are always described as failures. But Haiti has become a major nexus in the global low-wage manufacturing system, which is also important to understanding current events there.

Dubois does a fine job summarizing the succession of political catastrophes outside powers have inflicted on Haiti, but mysteriously wraps up his story with the Duvalier Regime. After that, he race through events so quickly one senses he was just determined to provide the barest tissue of narrative. By the time he gets to his much-noted critique of NGOs and their role in earthquake relief, it's a random island of detail in a sea of summary. Overall, a handy outline with a good bibliography and thoughtful analysis.
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