Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Hardback)
  • Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Hardback)
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Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Hardback)

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Hardback 464 Pages / Published: 03/09/2020
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Illuminating and absorbing, Black Spartacus is a definitive new biography of Toussaint Louverture – a revolutionary slave hero, military mastermind and the first leader of the independent Black state of Haiti. 

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2021

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020

A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

The definitive modern biography of the great slave leader, military genius and revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture.

The Haitian Revolution began in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue with a slave revolt in August 1791, and culminated a dozen years later in the proclamation of the world's first independent black state. After the abolition of slavery in 1793, Toussaint Louverture, himself a former slave, became the leader of the colony's black population, the commander of its republican army and eventually its governor. During the course of his extraordinary life he confronted some of the dominant forces of his age - slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism and racial hierarchy. Treacherously seized by Napoleon's invading army in 1802, this charismatic figure ended his days, in Wordsworth's phrase, 'the most unhappy man of men', imprisoned in a fortress in France.

Black Spartacus draws on a wealth of archival material, much of it overlooked by previous biographers, to follow every step of Louverture's singular journey, from his triumphs against French, Spanish and British troops to his skilful regional diplomacy, his Machiavellian dealings with successive French colonial administrators and his bold promulgation of an autonomous Constitution. Sudhir Hazareesingh shows that Louverture developed his unique vision and leadership not solely in response to imported Enlightenment ideals and revolutionary events in Europe and the Americas, but through a hybrid heritage of fraternal slave organisations, Caribbean mysticism and African political traditions. Above all, Hazareesingh retrieves Louverture's rousing voice and force of personality, making this the most engaging, as well as the most complete, biography to date.

After his death in the French fortress, Louverture became a figure of legend, a beacon for slaves across the Atlantic and for generations of European republicans and progressive figures in the Americas. He inspired the anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass, the most eminent nineteenth-century African-American; his emancipatory struggle was hailed by those who defied imperial and colonial rule well into the twentieth. In the modern era, his life informed the French poet Aime Cesaire's seminal idea of negritude and has been celebrated in a remarkable range of plays, songs, novels and statues. Here, in all its drama, is the epic story of the world's first black superhero.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241293812
Number of pages: 464
Weight: 744 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 42 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'...remarkable ... the sharpest portrait yet of Louverture ... Black Spartacus is a triumph. It takes a nearly impossibly complex history and weaves it into a compelling and accurate narrative that reads like fiction.' - Ben Horowitz, The Financial Times 

'Black Spartacus is a tour de force: by far the most complete, authoritative and persuasive biography of Toussaint that we are likely to have for a long time...an extraordinarily gripping read.' - David A Bell, The Guardian 

'Lustrous pearls ... scattered throughout Black Spartacus, turn this detailed, blow-by-blow account of Toussaint's military exploits into a dazzling, complicated narrative ... a breath-taking picture of the decade of Toussaint's dream' - Amy Wilentz, The Spectator 

'With Black Spartacus, Sudhir Hazareesingh has produced the fourth - and best - biography of Toussaint Louverture since the bicentenary of Haitian independence ... The book deftly tackles the early stages of the slave uprising and gives one of the most convincing accounts yet of Toussaint's likely role in its opening moves.' - Paul Clammer, History Today 

'... a timely study of Toussaint Louverture, hero of Haiti's slave revolt' - Clive Davis, The Times 

'This timely biography digs deeper into archival material to reveal Louverture's uniquely modern views.' - Evening Standard

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“Fascinating”

I as completely enthralled by this biography, I knew very little going in about Toussaint, but by the end , this book made me feel really knowledgeable, it also goes into great depth without losing any of your... More

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