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Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  118 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Toussaint Louverture’s life was one of hardship, triumph, and contradiction. He was born a slave on Saint-Domingue yet earned his freedom and established himself as a small-scale planter. He even purchased slaves of his own.

Philippe Girard shows how Louverture transformed himself from lowly freedman into revolutionary hero as the mastermind of the bloody slave revolt of 17
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 22nd 2016 by Basic Books
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Mary Catherine Pace Academic writers usually have limited runs, so the costs are fairly high. This biography is enjoying surprising popularity, but it was published only…moreAcademic writers usually have limited runs, so the costs are fairly high. This biography is enjoying surprising popularity, but it was published only last year, so it remains available only in hardback. Because of the excellent research, new material, excellent historical narrative style, and few books on the subject, this book will undoubtedly be included in required university texts.(less)

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3.78  · 
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 ·  118 ratings  ·  26 reviews


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Murtaza
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The figure of Toussaint Louverture seems to grow larger as time goes on. The leader of the Haitian Revolution, Louverture has been alternately depicted as a Spartacus-like figure who avenged the victims of slavery, or a calculating politician who intended to hold the slave system in place while reengineering it to benefit a new black elite. Both of these depictions are too simplistic. In this biography, Philippe Girard does an admirable job of recreating Louverture's life. In doing so he paints ...more
Andrew
Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life, by Philip Girard, is a biographical account of the life, rise to power, and fall of Toussaint Louverture, the revolutionary Haitian leader who overthrew the French colonial government in the French Colony of Saint-Domingue and ruled as an autocratic "Governor General" until his overthrow and capture by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. Louverture was a mixed character throughout his life. He was born a slave to parents who were nobility in the tribe they wer ...more
Andrew
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly comprehensive biography of Toussaint L'Overature, covering his early life, ascent to and fall from power as well as dealing with the lives of his descendants. The author has used accounts from his supporters as well as detractors together with recently discovered records to construct a picture of the man.

He is clearly presented as an able and pragmatic leader who has become the image of revolution and emancipation. But his decisions and policies were much more complex as the boo
...more
Jonny
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I started reading this knowing barely more about Louverture than the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article but was still amazed by the complexity of his life and the political situation that he navigated. It’s inevitably difficult for the author to be definitive on a range of points (given the sparsity of the documentary record) - this is still a very well-researched account that helps contextualise the subject and his legacy.
Marques Hollie
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I remember seeing a picture of Toussaint Louverture in my American History text book in seventh grade. It was a small picture with a fraction of a paragraph about the Haitian Revolution and that was it, and yet, I remember touching that picture and *feeling* the larger story. Philippe Girard has written a throughly researched biography that explores the many aspects of Toussaint Louverture's life and political career. He is a complicated man, at times a hero, a villain, and a martyr and I feel t ...more
Kusaimamekirai
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
History has no shortage of men with the best of intentions becoming drunk on power. Often following on the heels of a struggle for independence, the ideals that blood is shed over all too often are forgotten as ambition and corruption creep in, leaving its citizens wondering whether a local version of despotism is in any sense better than an external one. In many ways, this is the story of Toussaint Louverture and this book.
Born into slavery and abject poverty in what is now modern day Haiti,
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Ramiro Guerra
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a fun story to read, and the author did an exceptionally good job painting a picture of his early life considering that individual slave accounts are hard to come by since....well, they weren’t allowed to read or write.

Also, Toussaint himself glossed over his early life as a slave, hardly mentioning it in his own memoir, which was written in a cold dark French prison.

Much of what is known about him comes from official accounts by him as a general and politician.

He’s definitely a revolut
...more
Gayla Bassham
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, complicated, and impressively researched. Recommended if you're at all interested in Haiti or the history of slavery and emancipation.
Brendan Sheehan
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This was an interesting, albeit much shorter than I wanted it to be, in part because of the fascinating subject matter of the biography. I was only aware of Touissant in part because as mentioned in the final paragraph he became a abolitionist hero outside of Haiti. Upon finishing the book, it’s clear why among those who lived in Haiti when he was the dominant politic force and for decades after he was not the focus of the revolution or the independence struggle. His devotion to Catholicism, his ...more
Sarah Rigg
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've seen this revolutionary Haitian figure, sometimes called "The Black Napoleon" or "The George Washington of Haiti", mentioned by a number of black authors, so I was curious to read this recent biography of the man.

I like that the author, Girard, chose to give a well-rounded picture of the complicated man, bolstered by archival finds as new as 2012 and 2013. Louverture was, above all, pragmatic, and would align himself with the French crown when he needed to, or with revolting slaves, as he
...more
Paul Frandano
Won't resolve every question (frankly, nothing will, but new documents seem to turn up every few years to drive Haiti scholars back to the archives) but a finely balanced portrait, neither hagiographic nor iconoclastic, of the many Toussaints - each of which gets a chapter - that sequentially resided in the single body of the former African slave who presided over the great Saint-Domingue slave revolt, defeated French, Spanish, and British armies, won a civil war, and created a government...and ...more
Andrew
This is a fairly comprehensive biography of Toussaint L'Overature, covering his early life, ascent to and fall from power as well as dealing with the lives of his descendants. The author has used accounts from his supporters as well as detractors together with recently discovered records to construct a picture of the man.

He is clearly presented as an able and pragmatic leader who has become the image of revolution and emancipation. But his decisions and policies were much more complex as the boo
...more
John Walker
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very fair biography of one the great black hero's of all time, Toussaint Louverture, who by sheer will built the tiny nation of Saint-Domingue (Haiti today) away from a slave run colony of France into it's own nation.

Girard doesn't sugar coat some of the thing he did but one cannot deny the his intelligence, that defeated Britain and France (under Napoleon) was brilliant and studied today. A master of guerrilla warfare he was able to keep his enemies at bay. Only deceit tricked him into exile
...more
Max
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked learning about the history and nuances of Toussaint Louverture, and clearly the author used a lot of primary sources, some of it only unearthed in the past decade. I'm sure there was a high degree of difficulty, as there aren't many written records of slave life from before the revolution. Still, I was disappointed that I never learned what it was about Toussaint that allowed him to organize the revolution. For that matter, I didn't even come away feeling like I had a good grasp of how t ...more
Hakan Jackson
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I came into this book knowing almost nothing about Toussaint Louverture. Now that I've finish this book I definitely feel like I know more. Just wish the Philippe Girard was a better writer, but I guess everyone can't be Doris Kearns Goodwin. I still am happy to come away from this book knowing more and I'm definitely going to read more books on the Haitian Revolution.
BMR, LCSW
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a well researched history of one of the most misunderstood revolutionaries in the Western Hemisphere.

Highly recommended for history geeks, especially those interested in revolutionary history, African diaspora history, colonial uprisings, class and freedom struggles.
Tim
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Also a great song by Santana
Daniel Farabaugh
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good and solid biography of the revolutionary. It does a nice job of incorporating new research and showing a complex picture of the man.
Greg Brown
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Good book about a fascinating historical figure.
Jane
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
"No one knows," "there are no records of," "it's impossible to say." Pity poor Philippe Girard, trying to write a biography with so little to go on. His narration of L'Overture's extraordinary life fails to effervesce, alas, and as a writer, he's not in the same class as the big guns like Doris Kearns Goodwin, Christopher Benfey, or William Manchester.
Rhonda
Feb 16, 2017 added it
What a life Toussaint Louverture had! This easy-to-read biography gives a good overview of Haiti in the late 18th century.
Tom Buske
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a good account of the life of Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution. It's even handed in it's treatment of him demonstrating his strengths and weaknesses as a politician, general and diplomat.
Lucas
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Not notable, but a rare topic. Nicely done even so.
Matthew McCarthy
rated it it was amazing
May 05, 2018
Benjamin Priest
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Sispyphusrock
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Nov 28, 2016
Don Deezy
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Angelique Nehmzow
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