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Robert A. Schneider
Editor, American Historical Review

Last modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

American Historical Review: Haiti and antislavery; empire and the law

March 6, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Historians have tended to argue that early leaders of the Haitian Republic did little to promote antislavery elsewhere in the region. Ada Ferrer presents evidence to the contrary in the latest issue of the American Historical Review.

In "Haiti, Free Soil, and Antislavery in the Revolutionary Atlantic," Ferrer explores the ways in which notions of freedom among slaves were shaped not only by the example of the Haitian Revolution but also by the actions of the Haitian state after independence. She argues that a little-known 1817 case reveals how the government of Haitian President Alexandre Pétion did in fact project its antislavery influence abroad, thus participating in the international debates on both slavery and freedom.

"The Oath of the Ancestors," an 1822 painting by French artist Guillaume Guillon Lethière, represents the October 1802 union of Haitian revolutionary leaders Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétion. The painting provides a stunning visual representation of Haiti's role in linking antislavery, sovereignty and the law, as explored by Ada Ferrer in AHR.

Print-Quality Photo

AHR is the official publication of the American Historical Association. Its editorial offices are at Indiana University Bloomington. The February 2012 issue also includes an AHR Forum and a Presidential Address by outgoing AHA President Anthony Grafton. The address introduces readers to early 18th-century writer and scholar Francis Daniel Pastorius, whose work and life exemplify a transnational intellectual community and highlight the curious position of a humanist living in colonial America.

The AHR Forum, "Liberal Empire and International Law," explores the apparent contradiction between the ideal of the rule of law and the lawless conquest practiced by Western imperial powers.

  • In "The Liberal Traditions in the Americas: Rights, Sovereignty, and the Origins of Liberal Multilateralism," Greg Grandin contrasts Europe and its empires with the U.S. relationship with Latin America, focusing on the contested notions of rights and sovereignty.
  • In "Empire and Legal Universalisms in the Eighteenth Century," Jennifer Pitts looks at figures who commented critically from a legal perspective on European imperialism, beginning in the 18th century.
  • In "Liberalism and Empire in Nineteenth-Century International Law," Andrew Fitzmaurice examines debates over the justice of empire in international law and diplomacy that took place at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, especially over the partition of Africa.
  • In his Forum comment, "Empire and Its Anxieties," Anthony Pagden provides a learned survey of the history of imperial rule and empires with an emphasis on both the law of nations and international law.

The American Historical Review is published five times a year by University of Chicago Press. Highly regarded among scholars of history, AHR has for several years had the highest "impact factor" among history journals, according to Journal Citation Reports, which measures how often articles in a particular journal are cited by peer-reviewed journals in the Thomson Reuters database. For more information, including JSTOR links to articles in the current issues, visit