Slavery in the French Caribbean, 1635–1804


Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2011. French colonization in the Americas took place in Canada, the Mississippi region, and the Greater Caribbean, including French Guiana. Slavery was a part of all the societies in the French Americas, but while it was of relatively marginal importance in Canada it was the central economic structure in the Caribbean colonies. The French colonies there – and particularly the last to be formed, that of Saint-Domingue – expanded with startling speed during the eighteenth century, prospering and generating enormous wealth for France. After the loss of Canada to the British and the transfer of Louisiana to the Spanish in 1763, when the colonies of the Caribbean became the sole French territories in the America, they reached the peak of their development. During the revolutionary years starting in 1789, however, a series of dramatic transformations took place in the French Caribbean colonies, leading to the abolition of slavery by the French National Convention in 1794, and ultimately the defeat of French armies in Saint-Domingue and the creation of Haiti. As a direct result of this, the recently re-acquired territory of Louisiana was sold to the expanding United States. By the early nineteenth century, the French colonial presence in the Americas had been reduced to the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the territory of French Guiana, and two small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dubois, L

Published Date

  • January 1, 2011

Book Title

  • The Cambridge World History of Slavery, Volume 3: AD 1420-AD 1804

Start / End Page

  • 431 - 449

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780521840682

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CHOL9780521840682.019

Citation Source

  • Scopus