Black Jacobins Reading Group

Notice: Black Jacobins Reading Group

In Hilary Term we will be meeting to discuss C. L. R. James’ 1938 work The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. The reading group is convened by Dr. William Booth at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. It is open to all – students, staff, and the public – though space may be limited; thus, please express interest to Location: Room Quad 14.2, St. Catherine’s College, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UJ.

Dates (Hilary Term 2018 – all sessions 14.00-15.30):

Tuesday 16th January (First Week) – Chapters I-III

Tuesday 30th January (Third Week) – Chapters IV-VI

Tuesday 13th February (Fifth Week) – Chapters VII-IX

Tuesday 27th February (Seventh Week) – Chapters X-XII

Friday 9th March (Eighth Week) – Chapter XIII

In addition to The Black Jacobins, which is available in many of Oxford’s libraries, you may also be interested in the following secondary works, inter alia:

C. Hogsbjerg & C. Forsdick, The Black Jacobins Reader (2017)

L. Dubois, Avengers of the New World (2005)

G. Horne, Confronting Black Jacobins (2015)

P. Buhle, C. L. R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (2017)

C. Hogsbjerg & C. Forsdick, Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions (2017)

D. Geggus, The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History (2008)

J. Popkin, You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery (2011)

P. Girard, “Black Talleyrand: Toussaint Louverture’s Diplomacy, 1798-1802” in The William and Mary Quarterly, 66:1, and “Caribbean Genocide: Racial War in Haiti, 1802-1804,” in Patterns of Prejudice, 39:2

R. Blackburn, “Haiti, Slavery, and the Age of the Democratic Revolution” in The William and Mary Quarterly, 63:4


Joining SAIS Johns Hopkins Bologna

From September I will be working as Adjunct Professor of Latin American Studies at SAIS Johns Hopkins’ Bologna Institute for Policy Research. You can find my staff profile here. I will also continue to teach modern history at Oxford.

Spinning & Toiling

Some work news: from January I will be taking up a position as stipendiary lecturer in Modern History at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, through until summer 2018. I will also continue with my current role teaching the history of Latin America and the United States in the Department of International History at LSE until summer 2017.

A few words on José Fernández

A great deal has been written about José Fernández, the Miami Marlins star pitcher who died in a boat accident this morning. It’s awful for anyone to die at such a young age – he was just twenty-four years old – and that will be amplified for many by his prominence as a Marlin (a franchise which has had rough treatment from its ownership over the years and often not much to cheer about) and a Cuban in Miami.

One image which struck me was that of fellow Cuban defector (and hitting superstar for the New York Mets) Yoenis Céspedes, taping a Fernández jersey to the Mets dugout wall during the victory over the Phillies today.


The two had things in common – both were stars on teams down on their luck, both Cuban defectors – but their trajectories were very different. Céspedes is thirty, and arrived in the major leagues in 2012 already a star in Cuba. He had established himself at the local and international level and defected to the Dominican Republic in 2011 before signing a $36m/4yr deal with the A’s in 2012. (Interestingly, he may have been close to signing with the Marlins too).

Fernández had a much tougher, more contingent and more circuitous route to the United States and the big leagues. Several attempts to flee Cuba preceded a successful – though apparently highly traumatic – voyage to Mexico in 2008, during which the teenage Fernández reportedly saved his mother from drowning. While as an established player Céspedes (like Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman) could sign a free agent contract for really big money, Fernández went into the draft like every other budding young player, being selected in the first round by the Miami Marlins (albeit pocketing a cool $2m in the process). His precocious talents didn’t linger long in the minor leagues, and after just a year he was up in the bigs, an All-Star and then Rookie of the Year. Like Céspedes and Chapman he quickly became known for his explosive talent, but his raw skills were probably more impressive and he could well have gone on to be an all-time great pitcher. He also charmed many – and yes, as a Met fan who cannot stand the Marlins in the ordinary course of things, I include myself – with his evident delight in playing the game.


The individual cases of the players I’ve mentioned may, in time, have a good deal to say about the specificity of the Cuban-United States relationship, its antagonisms, its contradictions and co-dependencies. There has already been much ink spilled making crassly triumphalist political points. But further thoughts on these stories – and those of Puig, or Chapman, or the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have gone to the States to pursue lives much more ordinary than those of All-Star baseball professionals – should probably wait. For now, we should maybe just dwell on the dazzling talent and unbridled enthusiasm of a young man who has died much too soon, and think of those close to him.


Nineteenth Century Latin America… in London

If you are passing through Kensington, Richmond or Bloomsbury sometime you can see Blue Plaques and statues of Brazilian abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco as well as several of the best known leaders of Latin American independence movements:

Joaquim Nabuco Blue Plaque:

Francisco de Miranda/Andres Bello Blue Plaques:

Miranda statue:
Simon Bolivar:

Bolivar statue:ón_Bol%C3%ADvar,_London
O’Higgins Blue Plaque:
O’Higgins statue:
San Martin Blue Plaque:
San Martin statue:

 Feel free to add any more that you know of in the comments section!


Jeremy Corbyn and Latin America

Setting aside Corbyn’s other policies and proposals, over which a great deal of ink has already been spilled, if he wins there could be a significant shift in the Westminster discourse relating to Latin America. Corbyn has long been associated with solidarity movements for radical governments in the region, and he has frequently spoken up for the legacy of Sandinismo in Nicaragua and also that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Since the close entanglement of George Canning in the independence struggles of the new republics, Latin America has received little attention in Westminster politics (the Falklands/Malvinas conflict being a great exception, and hence poorly understood at the time and since), and where there has been interest from Foreign Office ministers* (consistently from Tristan Garel-Jones, intermittently from William Hague, reluctantly from most others) it was an interest based on a revival of a historic business relationship, not necessarily invoking the ‘informal empire’ of Britain in Argentina, but certainly elite-to-elite in the realm of global capital.

Corbyn’s ascendancy may signal a shift towards a popular relationship, one couched in terms of solidarity. This will be unwelcome among the political class, and while references to Chavez won’t quite retain the toxicity of those to Hamas et al, blood will boil at the prospect of an opposition leader who has openly endorsed land expropriation and the nationalisation of subsoil resources. But beyond the endorsement of ALBA or the domestic policies of radical populists, Corbyn’s rhetoric has engaged Latin American communities in the UK because he couches his opinions in terms of Latin Americans as people – people, in his view, upon whom many great historical wrongs have been visited.

To see what this humanisation (as opposed to being either worrisome migrants or potential markets for exports) means for London’s Latin American** community, just have a look at the beginning of this clip:

*To give an idea of how little attention is given to many parts of the world in the Cabinet at least, Hugo Swire currently has responsibility for: the Far East and South East Asia; India and Nepal; Latin America (including: Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba); Falklands; Australasia and Pacific; Commonwealth

**Eliding the differences between Latin American expatriate communities is problematic, but I think it’s fair to say (at least in my experience) that enough events and organisations (not to mention residential areas) cutting across national ties exist in London  to make the idea of a London Latin American community valid.