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The History Seminar

Outpost of the French Empire: Caribbean Connections and Racial Slavery in French New Orleans


September 10, 2019
4:30pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

The History Seminar

Outpost of the French Empire: Caribbean Connections and Racial Slavery in French New Orleans


September 10, 2019
4:30pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
September 10, 2019
4:30pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Adolphus Busch Hall

This talk presents Cécile Vidal's new book entitled Caribbean New Orleans: Empire, Race, and the Making of a Slave Society. The author argues that it is more accurate to view eighteenth-century New Orleans as a Caribbean port city rather than as a North American one, as its late founding, its position within the French Empire and its connections with Saint-Domingue explain why the interplay of slavery and race profoundly shaped its society from the outset.

The Louisiana capital may be viewed as a test case to analyze the expansion of racial slavery from the Antilles to the surrounding mainland throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to examine the historical formation of a slave society within a port city located in the midst of a plantation region, and to reconsider what it meant for a society to become racialized by showing how race was woven into the fabric of everyday life. By probing such a case study, the author proposes to better take into account the variety of slave societies that developed in the Americas, including those in urban settings, and offers a fresh perspective on racial formation. The book also contends that historians need to move away from a comparative history of racial slavery in the western hemisphere, that contrasts the Caribbean and North America as two distinctive models. Instead, they should consider all American colonial and slave societies as parts of a continuum.

Last but not least, Caribbean New Orleans situates early North American history on the periphery of Caribbean history and, as a result, contributes to a broader historiographical trend aimed at decentering North America.

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Photo: Jean-Pierre Lassus - Ink & watercolor view by Jean-Pierre Lassus, from the collection of the Centre des archives d'outre-mer, France (DFC Louisiane 71-6A)

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