July 23, 2010 cameron

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast #55 – Nicholas Stark on Napoleon and Haiti (part one)


I know – it’s been a long, long…. long time!

But we are glad to be back!

On this episode, our special guest is Nicholas Stark, a 19-year-old wunderkind who David and I first met in Paris back in 2008. Nicholas is an undergraduate at West Chester University and a Fellow of the International Napoleonic Society, who has an article published in Volume 3 of the Internatonal Napoleonic Society’s Journal and who authored a paper on Napoleon and Haiti which was recently read (by INS “First Lady” Barbara Markham) at the recent INS Congress held in Malta.

One topic we often get requests to talk about in more detail is Napoleon’s involvement in the restoration of slavery in Haiti after the slave revolt lead by Toussaint L’overture. It’s a fascinating topic that is often dredged up as a criticism of Napoleon and indeed one which requires much further discussion on this podcast. In fact, this is only part one of the discussion and we’ll finish it up in at least one additional episode in coming weeks.

In this episode, Nicholas helps us understand more about the background to the slave revolt in Haiti (or Saint Domingue as it was known at the time), the role of the French Revolution and fascinating characters such as Léger-Félicité Sonthonax.

If you want to follow Nicholas’ activities or chat with him, you can find him on Twitter and his blog.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on the INS site and to buy some of David’s excellent books!

Oh and if anyone is interested, today’s version of La Marsellaise can be found here. It’s the one by Mireille Mathieu.

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Comments (24)

  1. Just a brief correction of a point I made. For planters who lived in France while owning plantations in St. Domingue, the number was 1/4th, not 1/2, an overshot on my part, but the point still remains the same, that whites didn’t want to live in France themselves.

  2. David

    It’s great to have you guys back, and the addition of Nicholas Stark was an unexpected treat. Cameron, as I’m sure you’ve already verified, the man whose name was on the tip of your tongue was the abolitionist Josiah Wedgewood (who, among other things, was the grandfather of Charles Darwin!). Thanks for yet another excellent show.

  3. Michael

    Its wonderful to have you back! Next time, could you maybe talk on Ribbe’s Le Crime de Napoléon. I’d rather like to hear an academic review of that piece of garbage.

  4. Emmanuel

    Bravo David for finding new blood to support the Napoleonic saga.
    Superb Cameron, i love your honesty and also the Marseillaise sang by Mireille Matthieu.

    Suggestion: Napoleon and the furnitue “empire” style. Could you tell us more about it?

  5. Stan Tomson

    So happy you guys are back! Thanks a ton, I was getting scared it was all over. It was a surprise when i opened up iTunes and it started to download, and you end on a cliffhanger promise of a second episode with Nicholas Stark! I hope we’ll be seeing more, but I certainly understand real life causing delays.

    Thanks again!

    P.S. Cameron, I totally support your commentary on American politics!

  6. Martin

    Thank you for continuing the podcast I had almost given up hope. I was surprised how excited I was as i-Tunes downloaded it.
    As for Nicholas Stark…. kudos to you. I only wish I had half your confidence and academic ability at the age of 19. I look forward to your future broadcast and to reading your books in the future…
    P.s… Thanks to the esteemed Mr Markham as well. And he can be pleased that his book sales have doubled ( just bought his book)

  7. @Martin Thanks! I try my best for my work, and to know that others enjoy it is my one true consolation, and what an unparalleled consolation it is! I was worried I wouldn’t be well-received, but it greaty sooths my nerves to see that from the few comments so far, the reaction to me seems positive. Thanks again!

  8. Angie

    I am so thrilled the team of Cameron and J.David Markum are back 7 22 10! I have listened to the Napoleon podcast 2x and am constantly replaying episodes. Some of my favorites are the ones by Alexander talking about the Russian generals.

    Napoleon is my life coach. I just got my custom framing of him crossing the Alps on the white charger. It hangs on my living room wall. Thanks and I would love to buy Napoleon merch if there is a store through the podcast network.

  9. Paul Caspall

    I’d just about given up all hope!
    Welcome back David & Cameron, and hello to Nicholas. Very informative and obscure little piece in the Napoleonic jigsaw, this one – most intriguing. Just one request, Nicholas – if you’re a coffee drinker, drink less before podcasting! Your voice accelerates through the sound barrier – you reached Mach 2 at least a dozen times!


    Cheers and thanks again.
    Looking forward to Pt 2, and many more!


  10. christine seagraves

    Ah, Nick! Your genius never ceases to amaze me. I know that at some point, I will be able to say, “Hey, I went to school with that guy!” Tu as brilliant, mon ami.
    Tres bien!

  11. Julian [A Canadian Bonapartist]

    Did you cite Samuel de Champlain in any of your works on pre-French revolution Haiti? I know that he went to the Caribbean and I believe to Haiti at some point, a just man in an unjust world, he experienced first hand the slave trade in the Caribbean. He’s a particular hero of mine, other than Napoleon, of course…

    Vive l’empereur and Vive Canada!

  12. @Julian Great to hear from a Canadian enthusiast! Unfrtunately, no, I didn’t come across anything, or at least anything of value, concerning Champlain and Haiti. Do you have books on the subject or the man that you would recommend? I, ashamed, must admit I am largely ignorant on Canadian and Quebecois history, unsurprising from a US fellow like me since this country gets no information and hardly a single non-travel book about our great northern neighbors. Any good references would be appreciated!

    Vive l’empereur, Vive Canada, et Vive le Quebec…Vive le Quebec libre! 🙂

  13. Julian, A Bonapartist and Canadian patriot

    I can’t say we don’t get enough books about American history up here, and being no expert on Samuel de Champlain’s early explorations in Haiti I could give you no particular book based on that alone, but I could cite many great books on Samuel, my particular favourite is “Champlain, a life of fortitude,” old, but the probably the Champlain equivalent of Vincent Cronin’s “Napoleon.” Then of course there’s his personal writings, if you can get hold of an edition.

    Champlain visited the caribbean with a Spanish fleet, although, as Morris Bishop mentions, his sympathies were “largely with the privateers that would have preyed on the Spanish ships if they had had wind that they contained treasure.”

    I couldn’t readily tell of any books that would be available in the US without a bit of a search, but “The French Canadians” and a whole series called “Makers of Modern Canada,” also old, but quite thorough. Merci for your interest in Canada, et j’apprecie ton appreciation for Canadian history.

    Of course you could read about my OTHER interest, the War of 1812, but we won’t go into who won that… :[

    But no worries, I think that the USA’s a great place, and to be honest am quite happy we followed up and gained our independence in 1867.

    Vive l’empereur, Vive Canada, et Vive les etats-unis!

  14. Daniel vianna

    Excellent show as always. One comment: you compare the treatment Napoleon gave to the insurrection in Paris (the disarmament after putting down the whiff of grapeshot uprising) to his recommendations on how to carry the campaign in Haiti. You conclude that he gave these insurrects the same treatment. But the insurrects would take it very different. Disarmament called for by the imperial government is usually taken by a distrustful colony as a first step towards greater violent repression, as does sending leaders to exile (be it France or elsewhere). Parisians weren’t enslaved and the Terror in France was much less horrific than the normal state of affairs in Haiti before the Revolution. If Napoleon thought that by calling loyal blacks to France he was giving them a ticket back home to retirement, he seriously misunderstood the situation.

  15. @Daniel Vianna

    Thank you for the feedback! I do think you are right that Napoleon seriously misunderstood the situation, and that seemed to be what I found for his whole handling of the situation. He well-understood European politics, but his understanding of colonial politics seems to have been highly flawed. I’m not sure if any leader in his position could have maintained Haiti, but nevertheless his lack of understanding was a detriment on this issue which hurt France in the long run, although we anti-imperialists of today would not mark this failure as a bad thing for humanity, however bad it was for France at the time. In the same vein, he thought that soldiers’ mentality in the colonies would be the same as in Europe. He argued that, essentially, a soldier must be willing to serve where he is ordered to, whether it be be in St. Domingue, Italy, Russia, or France. It’s simple military discipline. Bt as you quite rightfully pointed out, this is not how colonial leaders trying to rebuilt a war-wrecked island ravaged by a recent war and with their freedom seemingly unsecured (had been since the coup of Thermidor, Year II), see the situation.

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