The most interesting aspect of Mr. Popkin’s lecture to me was that it was being presented as a revolution that the Haitian Revolution was now being studied. Because for all of my previous studies of history in secondary school the Haitian Revolution was a part of the World History cirriculum. It was in my textbook, and on the AP test I took. I took it for granted. Popkins lecture though was more about how the revolution of the small island nation came to be be viewed in the way it is today, as the major turning point where democracy went from the idealistic approach of the American and French Revolutions to a real form of revolution that aimed at much more human causes.
In Haiti this specifically was the oppressive manner in which it was governed by France. It was a slave colony. What the Haitian revolution arose from was the logical notion that a majority of a population having no control over their own lives was not an ideal, and just plain wrong. It was a reaction against colonialism, the first of it’s kind, that would set the precedent for how the next two centuries of world history would end up unfolding. This is the consensus amongst modern historians. What Popkin’s lecture sought to point out is that this was not always the case. That the way history is thought of is up to the same bias’ as politics or government.
For the Haitian revolution this was a consequence of it being on the opposite side of history as the historians. For historians have primarily worked in the West in the great empires of old. To celebrate or acknowledge a revolution that worked to destroy their very notion of how history worked would be a tough pill to swallow. Yet it was, and the inclusion of the Haitian Revolution in modern curriculum is a sound defeat of this notion.
This is all to say that revolutions are defined as much by those that view them as the people involved in them. That the Haitian revolution occurred is historically an interesting tale. That this tale didn’t reach a mainstream western audience until recently is as interesting. It’s an exploration into how we define the phenomena that have shaped human kind-of which revolution is a marker of.