Revolutions often entail violence, but do not always leave a legacy that incorporates this violence. Revolutions, at least those in the Western world, are usually remembered for the change they brought about, the people championed and the resulting political improvement. The violence and risk that went into bringing about those revolutions is usually not a central aspect of their history. However, revolutions that occurred in less developed countries often include violence as a central element in their history, and this may be due to biases in primary accounts of the revolutionary events.
Popkin pointed out that violence is a central component to the history of the Haitian Revolution. The revolution is remembered for its violence, but its motives can be forgotten. The goal of this revolution, for example, was a moral one: the abolition of slavery. Insurrectionists were fighting toward this goal, and violence did follow, but it was not pointless violence. This inconsistency may be attributable to the fact that most first person accounts of the revolution were written by white witnesses of the events. There may be, then, a bias in the history of this one revolution which points to a potential bias in all of history- the group able to record conflict often favors their own side.
Conversely, Popkin explained how violence is remembered as a byproduct of the French Revolution. This is interesting due to the gruesome aspects of this time period in France. For example, guards’ heads were cut off and paraded around on stakes when the Bastille was stormed, and “The Terror” was a time of rampant execution. The French Revolution, however, is mostly remembered as a political revolution that inspired the disenfranchised around the world to fight for their rights. It has come to represent the triumph of the lower classes, a victory for human rights, despite its alarming dark side. Perhaps this is because most dominant accounts of the revolution were written by its participants, who were able to suppress opposing voices.
While the French Revolution inspired worldwide revolt, the Haitian fight against slavery seemed to only immediately have a local impact. The Haitian Revolution had the positive impact of ending slavery in all French colonies in 1803. Unfortunately, however, slavery persisted in the United States until 1865. This may be due to the reputation of violence the Haitian Revolution garnered. Perhaps if the revolution was publicized more for its true purpose and moral goals, it may have had a more immediate, larger impact. This would also require, however, that slaves in other places had a means of receiving news from far away in order to be inspired to revolt.
The Haitian Revolution compared to the French Revolution is a perfect example of bias in history. History often favors those who are able to record it. This is important to remember when studying history; the full story may not always be the one given by primary source accounts or even written in history books. Bias is almost always a factor that is important to take into account.