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Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  350 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
A passionate and insightful account by a leading historian of Haiti that traces the sources of the country's devastating present back to its turbulent and traumatic history

Even before the 2010 earthquake destroyed much of the country, Haiti was known as a benighted place of poverty and corruption. Maligned and misunderstood, the nation has long been blamed by many for its
ebook, 448 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published April 12th 2011)
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Imagine my relief when I was finally able to find a contemporary history book about Haiti. All I knew before was 'The Black Jacobins', and his story ends with Dessalines.

The main historical question of this book is of the Haitian peoples' autonomy, and how much or how little they have had through exceedingly difficult circumstances. This starts with the country's traumatic birth from a slave rebellion, then through long periods of diplomatic isolation, authoritarian rule, and foreign interventi
Dec 14, 2011 Pooja rated it it was amazing
Indispensable for anyone seriously interested in Haiti, but also an engrossing. Laurent Dubois is a wonderful storyteller, bringing to life characters I knew little about, including Antenor Firmin, and humanizing figures who had become caricatures, like Henri Christophe. In Dubois' telling, Haiti has been a site of constant struggle; he doesn't answer whether and how its ends might be achieved.

Dubois also weaves in stories about people who have told stories about Haiti; he's ever alert to the w
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
I wanted to go to Haiti, one of the places that I thought of visiting during my gap year before going up to university. At school I read Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians, set in the Haiti of Papa Doc Duvalier, horrible and fascinating at one and the same time. Add to that my discoveries about Vodou and my subsequent reading into Haiti’s past then the magnetism became compelling. But I was warned against going; it was too dangerous, the place was too unsettled, there were too many risks. I wen ...more
Nov 14, 2013 John rated it liked it
This is a fascinating yet frustrating book about the history of the Republic of Haiti. Written by a scholar of the French Caribbean who teaches at Duke, "Haiti: The Aftershocks of History" strives to trace three interlocking streams of modern Haitian history: 1) the country's origins as the product of a successful slave revolt (circa 1800); 2) the hostile reaction that the revolt triggered in the larger world; and 3) the internal struggle of Haitians to realize the goals of the revolution.

Dec 23, 2016 Jena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's fitting this was the last book I will finish in 2016 since it took me nearly the whole year to read it. The book provided a very informative and thorough history of Haiti. This book helped me better understand the country and its struggles. It was very dense but very helpful.
Jul 10, 2013 Mae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libs-678
1. Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: the aftershocks of history. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012. Print.

2. 0805093354 $21.18

3. Review: "HAITI The Aftershocks Of History." Kirkus Reviews (2012): 12. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 July 2013.

4. VASOL EPF.1 a-f, WHII.7 a-d

5. This non-fiction history traces the history of Haiti from 1804 (the revolution) to 1963 (Papa Doc). Dubois traces Haiti’s current difficulties back through history and places a chunk of blame for Haiti’s current difficulties on inter
Roy Howard
Feb 29, 2012 Roy Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This carefully researched and finely written book will be the standard for all future historians of Haiti. Laurent Dubois, Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University, provided the foundation for this narrative with his widely acclaimed "Avengers of the New World.” Now he has written a searing account of this nation born in liberation and facing relentless obstacles to true democracy, among them the United States. Dubois uncovers the social and political movements that have influ ...more
Michael Bartolone
Started reading this in anticipation of my trip to Haiti with Habitat for Humanity, and took a long break for about a month or so while a blew through Breaking Bad on Netflix.

The book is ostensibly a review of the history of Haitian independence, and an examination of how that history shapes the country today, but Dubois does not really get into the latter, glossing over the last twenty years of Haitian history in the last 10 pages of the book. Maybe that's by design, though - as though the rea
Grace Coston
I kept thinking, "Why did I not know this?" There are many lessons for today to be learned. Haiti bled itself dry to pay off the French "debt" ( they "owed" the French for the slaves and plantations that they liberated). This instead of spending on education, public health, housing, communications ... And today neo-liberal capitalists are grinding us down with calls for "Austerity! Rigor! Cut backs!" Haiti tried that, and look how much good it did the people there. Excellent example of illegitim ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Austin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiti, favorites
This is a wonderful read for anyone seriously interested in Haiti. It left me with a desire to know more and a lasting fascination with the Haitian people. Dubois is a great writer who captures your attention by properly introducing characters in Haiti's history that have had lasting impacts, whether positive or negative. It is disturbing to learn about the injustice faced by the Haitian people over two centuries but encouraging to hear about their profound resilience and determination. The auth ...more
Oct 13, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
My first understanding of Haiti came in 1969, when my parents sponsored a Haitian immigrant as an au pair to help with my newborn sister. And lucky we were, for we all became lifetime friends and got to know her family. Eventually, our friend got a professional credential, married happily, and is well settled here.

During those years, I learned about the strife and turmoil in Haiti. Papa Doc Duvalier became a household name to us, and not in any way positive. While in high school, I had many Hait
There is a lot to get out of the story of Haiti. Its a nonstop story of sadness. And this book pretty much hits all that. My issue with it was that it's geared way too much towards ancient history. Far too much of the book is focused on the period of history dating back to the 1600's. The worst of course started with the French. They raped they country for all they could and only gave up control of the colony reluctantly. To make things worse, the French then insisted that Haiti pay reparations ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiti
A good overall history of Haiti - starting from way back in the colonial period and taking you all the way through the quake, albeit with most detail focused early on. I enjoyed the focus on the earlier periods, since many other books deal more with recent political events. I also enjoyed the author's incorporation of Haitian writings and speeches, which left me feeling that if I wanted to explore a particular period further I had options. I did find that some era were treated in perhaps more de ...more
T.l. Harris
Oct 10, 2016 T.l. Harris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you know little about Haitian history. Haiti has often played the role of a victim of global historical patterns outside its control. First France and then the United States occupied it, exploited it, and supported the most vile excesses of its political elite. Dubois details these abuses, but also takes the time to talk about how ordinary Haitians found ways to maintain their freedom and independence for decades in a way that is unique to the first free black country in the western hemispher ...more
May 11, 2013 Alfons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent source on Haitian history. Great in explaining Haiti's current economic situation. US involvement in Haiti is appalling as was both the British and the French and current involvement of NGO's in the country help in continuing hinderance of the country's Economic Development. What's truly amazing is the strength of the Haitian people. He also does a GREAT job of touching base on Haitian culture, notably Voudou which is amazing and definitely not what it's popularly believed to be. I ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Claudia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiti
This is the second Haiti related book I've read by Dubois, the first one being "Avengers of the New World." I highly dislike both. Dubois get way to into the minutiae of his story and loses the big picture argument. In Aftershocks, he spent so much time pouring over every detail of every terrible president in Haiti from 1805-1930 that he completely rushes through the Duvalier and Aristide eras. The epilogue seemed contrived and rushed because of this.

Also - its clear that Dubois leans a very par
Purple Iris
May 21, 2012 Purple Iris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-politics
It's interesting to me to read all these reviews about how wonderful and thrilling this book is. I mean, I understand why, it is superbly written, but it is also a very depressing and sobering read. It helps to understand Haitian history, but also the histories of France, England, and the US. I mean, the chapter on the US occupation... I wish similar writings were included in American history texts. It might help people understand why American soldiers are not always happily greeted when they sh ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Brady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been to Haiti multiple times, witnessing the poverty and utter lack of hope for many Haitians, this book began to shed some light onto the reasons why.

Starting at the nation's founding and working up through present-day (although it stopped going in-depth in the 1990's and just gave a brief overview in the epilogue), the book provided a thorough account of Haiti's history. I was surprised about the same several issues that have plagued the country from the beginning: divisions among colo
Apr 29, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent overview of Haitian history. It's very well written and informative, and provides some intriguing insights into the forces that have brought Haiti to its present sad state.
Since this is an authoritative work by a professor at Duke, I can't overlook one of the most egregious editorial errors I've seen in a long time: on page 292 the author refers to an American delegation that arrived in Haiti in 1930 to investigate conditions under the US military occupation as having been
Wendy G
I enjoyed this history of Haiti. It isn't exhaustive, it's mostly summary, but I think he hits the important events of this tumultuous place. I found the author's treatment of the 20-year horrendous American occupation to be fair and accurate, and I wish more people knew about the atrocities committed upon the Haitian people by the US government and Marines. However, I didn't think the author did justice to the Duvalier dictators (father and son), especially to 'Baby Doc.' I also felt that the l ...more
Dubois provides a much more positive review of Haiti through a historical review of its colonial history and its revolution.--the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. Even after its independence France continue to strangle Haiti financially into the next century. "Colonial Saint-Dominque had been constructed around a hierarchical social order, an autocratic and militarized political system and an export-oriented economy. From the moment of its founding to the present day, Ha ...more
May 29, 2016 Kenneth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why is modern day Haiti so messed up? I have often asked that question, and through the pages of this book, I believe that I have found the best answers offered yet.
Mr. Dubois is fair, even and compassionate in his treatment of the Haitian people and their story. In August 1791 slaves there launched the largest slave revolt in history. They were successful in gaining their liberty. They would be punished for the next 200 years by fearful white men in Western countries that coveted their island.
May 16, 2012 Susy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed historical look at this small island nation with a strong indictment of the United States' role in shaping that history. . .we do not have a track record of being a very good neighbor. At times I was left with a hopeless feeling toward the ability of the country to untangle their politics and governance and align these with THEIR aspirations for their nation; but the inevitable resilience of the people whenever they emerged from a period of despotic repression gives me hope that perha ...more
Stephi Cham
Aug 02, 2016 Stephi Cham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's incredible that so many things have happened in Haiti, but its history as a country is so unknown to most people in the world. Even though Dubois IS biased, of course everyone is to some extent - this book provides a different and more personal perspective of Haitian history and culture than many other books do. Some events and periods were skipped over or vaguely mentioned, and I wish the book had followed chronological order in some places. Either way, I hope more people pick up this book ...more
Whitney Hassell
Interesting in that I had never studied about Haiti before, but I felt there was far too much extraneous information such that the important parts were lost in all the unnecessary words. Probably could have been more effective with half the page count. Also, I almost didn't even make it past the introduction with all the conflicting information (it's not the Haitians' fault, yet the leaders they elected were corrupt; they had no choice in the matter, yet the choices they made required them to gi ...more
Apr 30, 2016 Jork rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haiti is remarkable, has a remarkable history, and the book is very interesting for showcasing that history solidly through the Duvalier period. It tapers off after their overthrow, approaching realtime coverage of the nation. The breakdown of all the terrible parts of Haiti's lifespan, the cycles of repeated authoritarianism and foreign intervention and oppression, undercut the hopeful tone the author strikes at the end. There is the possibility of massive structural change in Haiti, but merely ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an outsider who only had a basic knowledge of Haiti's history, I found the book to be interesting and informative. Dubois certainly attempts to avoid, or to complicate, the usual poverty/helplessness/Vodou lens with which Haiti is typically viewed. But I'm interested to learn how readers with a stronger sense of Haiti's history feel about his judgments of various political decisions and leaders - too harsh, too lenient or appropriate?
Nov 18, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best history books I have read in some time. The book provides an insightful and engaging account of the complicated history of Haiti. At times, the book reads like a novel, drawing the reader to understand the complex tensions and decisions as play. For US Readers, this book provides an important alternative history that is largely ignored in history classrooms. A very important book.
Kathleen McRae
Jan 25, 2013 Kathleen McRae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review of the history of Haiti is mainly through a political history viewpoint but as well tries to give a explanation for the psyche of the Haitian peopleAlthough he mentions the brutalization of the people throughout their history and in particular mentions women as targets of sexual aggression he does not single out a male based culture as culprit.Still a good book especially if you can read what is not there.
Jan 08, 2013 Madeline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Poorly put together, I felt like he jumped around a lot and the book could have been improved by sticking to a more strictly chronological telling.

Stressed me out reading it. They've been through the ringer. Made me think twice about "helping" there. And convinced me more than i'm already convinced that people just need to mind their own damn business.

Pages365 to 370 are especially thought provoking and worth a read.
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Laurent Dubois (PhD. University of Michigan) is associate professor of history at Michigan State University. His book A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 won the American Historical Association Prize in Atlantic History and the John Edwin Fagg Award. He is also the author of Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, which ...more
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