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Freedom's Mirror
Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution


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  • Date Published: January 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107697782

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About the Authors
  • During the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804, arguably the most radical revolution of the modern world, slaves and former slaves succeeded in ending slavery and establishing an independent state. Yet on the Spanish island of Cuba barely fifty miles distant, the events in Haiti helped usher in the antithesis of revolutionary emancipation. When Cuban planters and authorities saw the devastation of the neighboring colony, they rushed to fill the void left in the world market for sugar, to buttress the institutions of slavery and colonial rule, and to prevent 'another Haiti' from happening in their own territory. Freedom's Mirror follows the reverberations of the Haitian Revolution in Cuba, where the violent entrenchment of slavery occurred at the very moment that the Haitian Revolution provided a powerful and proximate example of slaves destroying slavery. By creatively linking two stories - the story of the Haitian Revolution and that of the rise of Cuban slave society - that are usually told separately, Ada Ferrer sheds fresh light on both of these crucial moments in Caribbean and Atlantic history.

    • Based on original research in over a dozen archives in six countries
    • Written in a lively, accessible style to appeal to many
    • Links two stories - that of the Haitian Revolution and the rise of Cuban slave society - that are usually told separately, thus shedding fresh light on both
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    • Winner of the 2015 Friedrich Katz Prize, American Historical Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This remarkable book addresses a fundamental paradox in the history of the Atlantic World: plantation slavery retrenched and intensified even as antislavery politics scored its first great triumph. The Haitian revolution offered the world a beacon of freedom, but it also stimulated an economic, political, and philosophical reaction, exemplified in the consolidation of slavery on an unprecedented scale in neighboring Cuba. With precision and passion, Ferrer shows how liberation and bondage made and unmade one another. Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, this is a masterwork of analytical storytelling.' Vincent Brown, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Ada Ferrer treats in tandem two radically different developments that embodied the Caribbean's experience of the Age of Revolution. Widely researched and drawing on new sources, this is a fascinating reading of two turning points in the region's history.' David Geggus, University of Florida

    'Drawing on archival records from Cuba, Spain, and France, Ada Ferrer has crafted a brilliant work that goes far beyond comparative history. With elegant prose and telling detail, she traces the ways in which Cubans and the Africans among them reflected on the reality of slavery and the example of freedom when they looked - and sailed - across the Windward Passage to the revolutionary society of Saint-Domingue/Haiti. This splendid book allows us to listen to and watch the soldiers, planters, runaways, and sojourners who made that crossing, or heard from those who had, and then tried to shape their own situation in the light of transformative new knowledge.' Rebecca J. Scott, University of Michigan

    'Ferrer's contribution to Caribbean and age of revolution history is original, well researched, and accessible. Summing up: recommended.' R. Berleant-Schiller, Choice

    'This fine book follows untraveled paths, combining fascinating discoveries in new primary sources with refreshing interpretations of a difficult subject … offers an ongoing comparison and discussion of the interactions between two sugar islands, St Domingue, France's richest colony during the eighteenth century, and Cuba, long neglected as an economic colony by Spain.' Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, The Journal of American History

    'Ferrer's excellent book is a singular achievement, and it will serve as a baseline for the next generation of scholarship on the Atlantic's Age of Revolution and Emancipation.' Stuart B. Schwartz, The American Historical Review

    '… Ada Ferrer explores the tensions that underlay two overlapping revolutions on neighboring Caribbean islands at the turn of the nineteenth century: one, a struggle against slavery that culminated in the foundation of the independent nation of Haiti, the other, a 'sugar revolution' that entrenched enslavement in Cuba … If the Haitian Revolution was intertwined with the rise of Cuban slavery, Ferrer compellingly shows, it also paved the way for ongoing challenges to the new regime, from the vessels of slave liberation outfitted by successive Haitian states to the voices of antislavery conspirators and patriot insurgents over the course of Cuba's nineteenth century.' Andrew Walker, H-Haiti

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107697782
    • length: 392 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus. 4 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the Haitian Revolution and Cuban slave society
    1. 'A colony worth a kingdom': Cuba's sugar revolution in the shadow of Saint-Domingue
    2. 'An excess of communication': the capture of news in a slave society
    3. An unlikely alliance: Cuba and the black auxiliaries
    4. Revolution's disavowal: Cuba and a counterrevolution of slavery
    5. 'Masters of all': echoes of Haitian independence in Cuba
    6. Atlantic crucible:
    1808 between Haiti and Spain
    7. A black kingdom of this world: making history, imagining revolution in Havana, 1812
    Epilogue: Haiti, Cuba, and history: afterlives of antislavery and revolution.

  • Author

    Ada Ferrer, New York University
    Ada Ferrer is Professor of History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. She is the author of Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898, which won the 2000 Berkshire Book Prize for the best first book written by a woman in any field of history.


    • Winner of the 2015 Friedrich Katz Prize, American Historical Association
    • Winner of the 2015 Wesley-Logan Prize, American Historical Association
    • Winner of the 2015 James A. Rawley Prize, American Historical Association
    • Winner of the 2015 Haiti Illumination Book Prize, Haitian Studies Association
    • Winner of the 2015 Marysa Navarro Best Book Award, New England Council of Latin American Studies

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