Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

Laurent Dubois. Holt, $32 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9335-3
Dubois (A Colony of Citizens) chronicles the “devastating set of authoritarian political habits” that have hamstrung the impoverished nation since its 1804 creation through the only successful slave revolt in modern history. Throughout its struggle to take its place in the family of nations, the obstacles of giant debts imposed from without and political instability generated from within have created a ruling class that “realized they couldn’t rebuild the plantations or stop the country’s majority from pushing for land and autonomy. What they could do, however, was channel and contain that push, surround and stifle it.” For more than a hundred years after its independence, Haiti’s political struggles, from presidential intrigues to outright revolution ushered in more than a dozen leaders—and nearly as many constitutions—creating a legacy of instability that left Haiti vulnerable to a 19-year occupation by U.S. Marines. Decades of absolute dictatorship by “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his feckless, brutal son, “Baby Doc” Duvalier left a looted, indebted nation whose civil institutions “had been largely dismantled or absorbed by the state.” Dubois does an admirable job of condensing turbulent political history into a narrative. He places deep and abiding faith in the resilience of Haiti’s disempowered populace to survive the earthquake, but catalogues a bitter litany of reasons why the descendants of a successful revolution have not achieved anything close to economically successful, stable, democratic independence. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 01/03/2012
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-8050-9562-3
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-1-250-00236-5
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