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Haiti in the British ImaginationImperial Worlds, 1847-1915$
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Jack Daniel Webb

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781800348226

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781800348226.001.0001

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Hayti, or, the Black Republic

Hayti, or, the Black Republic

(p.139) Chapter Three Hayti, or, the Black Republic
Haiti in the British Imagination

Jack Daniel Webb

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the ‘communication circuit’ of the most influential book written on Haiti in the Victorian period, Spenser St John’s Hayti or the Black Republic (1884). During the ‘life-cycle’ of this book, from its research, writing, publishing, reading, and the re-writing (in its second edition), the meanings of Haiti varied. Through exploring the dynamics of this book’s communication circuit, I track the construction and rejection of certain ideas about Haiti. In the books’ text, some pre-existing ideas about the ‘Black Republic’, especially those concerning ‘Vaudoux’ and cannibalism, were consolidated whereas the more problematic notions of Haitian sovereignty were discarded. Yet, it is in the readings of the book performed by Haitians and certain political commentators across the Caribbean that counter-visions of Haiti emerge and are reinforced. In this moment, Haiti could be deployed equally as evidence in the case for expanding political agency to people of African descent in the British Caribbean.

Keywords:   Book history, Communication circuit, Political agency, Readerships, Nationhood, Sovereigny

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