Note: This list is heavily weighted to English language books on Haiti. The French language book list is very short and requires updating. One should always be aware that books and articles on Haiti often gloss over the realities of the 90% of Haitians who live their lives entirely in Haitian Creole. Creole is a vibrant language with its own structure; it is not pidgin French. French, the official language, and English, are the languages of the Haitian elite, often used to enforce the social and political status quo.
Updated January 31st, 2021
Updated January 31st, 2021
Revolution and Pre-Revolution History
C. L. R. James; The Black Jacobins. 1938; 2nd edition, Vintage, 1989. Classic study on the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.
Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World; Harvard University Press, 2004. This is a classic history of Haiti's 1791-1804 revolution against slavery and for independence, with a focus on the political interplay between the Haitian and French Revolutions. From the book's back cover, by Robin Blackburn: "There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books about the Haitian Revolution, but only a handful are indispensable. Avengers of the New World joins that select company. A powerful narrative informed by the latest research, it digs beneath ready-made notions--whether of purely heroic rebels or implacable caste hatreds--to bring to light the forging of new identities and new ideals."
Sudhir Hazareesingh; Black Spartacus. Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2020 “Superbly researched....this reconstruction gives (Louverture’s) political, military and intellectual accomplishments their due” - The Economist.
Julius C. Scott; The Common Wind, Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution. Verso, 2018. Examines the ripple effects of the Haitian Revolution in the Caribbean and “ the ways the ‘masterless’ itinerant men and women could drive political change” - New York Review of Books.
Ed. David Patrick Geggus and Norman Fiering; The World of the Haitian Revolution, Indiana University Press, 2009. A rich collection of essays by leading historians of Haiti examining different aspects of Haiti's 1804 revolution. The essays are drawn from presentations to a conference at the John Carter Brown Library (Brown University) marking the bicentennial of the Revolution.
Jeremy D Popkin; You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery. Cambridge University Press, 2010. The abolition of slavery in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue in 1793 and then by revolutionary France in 1794 were the first dramatic blows against an institution that had shaped the Atlantic world for three centuries and affected the lives of millions of people. You Are All Free provides the first complete account of the dramatic events that led to these epochal decrees, and also to the destruction of Cap Francais (Cap Haitien), the richest city in the French Caribbean, and to the first refugee crisis in the United States. Taking issue with earlier accounts that claim that Saint-Domingue's slaves freed themselves, or that French revolutionaries abolished slavery as part of a general campaign for universal human rights, the book shows that abolition was the result of complex and often paradoxical political struggles on both sides of the Atlantic that have frequently been misunderstood by earlier scholars.
Robin Blackburn; The American Crucible, Slavery Emancipation and Human Rights. Verso Books, 2011. Unlike many histories of slavery in the Americas, Robin Blackburn's new book places the Haitian Revolution at the center of its narrative. From an interview with the author, May 2011: "The American Crucible is an overview of the entire rise and fall of the slave regimes of the Americas from the early sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. My previous two books on slavery in the New World covered a substantial part of that period but did not deal with the rise and fall of the nineteenth century slave systems in Cuba, the United States, and Brazil. The Crucible seeks to explain why slavery could continue to grow even after suffering defeat in the Caribbean and in the former Spanish colonies."
Carolyn Fick; The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. University of Tennessee Press, 1991. “How to follow in the footsteps of a great historian? One answer is found in this important successor to CLR James's Black Jacobins. Fick effectively honors James's legacy by expanding the scope of inquiry to encompass the "self-activity" of historical actors at all levels of Haitian society. Where Black Jacobins stressed the key role of revolutionary leaders, Fick documents longstanding patterns of everyday resistance and marronage from which the 1791 revolution drew great strength. Her work restores popular agency to the forefront of Haiti's epic history---and James's contribution remains secure, not least due to superior literary merit.” - from a review on Amazon. "This remains an important work for grasping the meaning of the Haitian Revolution." - from Robin Blackburn’s The American Crucible (2011)
Madison Smartt Bell; Toussaint Louverture, A Biography. New York, Vintage, 2008. "An excellent introduction to one of the great, if elusive, personalities of history."- Boston Review.
Post Revolution History
Laurent Dubois; Haiti: The Aftershocks of History; 434 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2012. This book traces Haiti's post-independence political and economic history with a view to explaining why Haiti has never been able to develop the lasting democracy and economic progress that its people are so obviously desirous of achieving.
James G. Leyburn; The Haitian People. Yale University Press, 1941. “One of the very few books to deal with Haiti’s crucial century of isolation (1804-1915)” – from the foreword, Sidney W. Mintz. A sympathetic account of the social life of Haiti.
Johnhenry Gonsalez; Maroon Nation, A History of Revolutionary Haiti. Yale University Press, 2019. Gonsalez argues that “Haiti’s legacy of runaway communities and land conflict was as formative as the Haitian Revolution in developing the country’s characteristic agrarian, mercantile, and religious institutions.” - Library Review.
The Duvalier and pre-Duvalier Era
Mary Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism 1915-1940. The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
John Houston Craig, Cannibal Cousin. Minton, Balch and Co. 1934. A revealing, racist account of the U.S. occupation of Haiti written by a U.S. Marine Captain.
Hans Schmidt; The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934. New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1971.
Matthew J Smith; Red & Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957. University of North Carolina Press, 2009. The first comprehensive history of the post-Occupation era, arguing that 'the period from 1934 until the rise of dictator François "Papa Doc" Duvalier to the presidency in 1957 constituted modern Haiti’s greatest moment of political promise.'
Michel R. Trouillot; Haiti: State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism. New York, Monthly Review Press, 1990. The Duvalierist state and the ideology of the Haitian ruling class.
R. Lawless; Haiti’s Bad Press: Origins, Development, and Consequences. New York, Schenkmann Press, 1992. A critique of the media’s depiction of Haiti as a perpetual ‘failed state.’
Bernard Diederich; Bon Papa (the presidency of General Paul E. Magloire, 1950-56) and Papa Doc and the Tontons Macoutes (with Al Burt), Marcus Weiner Publishers, 2008. (http://www.markuswiener.com/);
Bernard Diederrich; History of Repression and Rebellion in Haiti Under Dr. François Duvalier, 1957–1962 (volume one of’ The Price of Blood’), Marcus Weiner Publishers, 2011.
Elizabeth Abbott; Haiti: The Duvaliers and Their Legacy. McGraw Hill Books, 1988. Abbott, a Canadian academic, writes with something of an insiders perspective – she was a sister in law of post Duvalier military dictator Henri Namphy.
Lavalas, the Democracy Period (1990-91, 1994 to 2004) and the 1991 and 2004 Coups
Peter Hallward; Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment. New York, Verso Books, 2007. A new edition with a post-earthquake postscript was published in 2011. Comprehensive review of Haiti as laboratory for the 'politics of containment', and the war against the Lavalas Movement in historical context.
Amy Wilentz; The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. Simon & Schuster, 1989. A journalist's well informed, anecdotal account of the early post Duvalier era and rise of the Lavalas movement.
J. Ridgeway; The Haiti Files: Decoding The Crisis. Washington DC, Essential Books, 1994. Edited compilation that unpacks the 1991 coup. It details the involvement of some of the elite families in the coup and their dominant role in Haitian politics.
Jean Bertrand Aristide; In the Parish of the Poor, Orbis Books, 1990. Recounting Aristide’s work in Port au Prince in the period preceding his first presidency.
Bob Shacochis, The Immaculate Invasion, Viking Press, 1999. An account of the 1994 U.S. Marine invasion that restored Aristide to power.
Yves Engler & Anthony Fenton; Canada in Haiti: Waging war on the poor majority. Red Publishing, 2005. Details the Canadian government’s role in the 2004 coup d'état against Jean-Bertrand Aristide and elected government in Haiti, and its support to the foreign-imposed regime that followed.
Randall Robinson; An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. New York, Basic Civitas Books 2007. An account of recent and past history of Haiti by an associate of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, including the author's participation in the mission that rescued Aristide from his kidnapping by U.S. Marines on February 29, 2004.
Noam Chomsky, Paul Farmer & Amy Goodman; Getting Haiti Right This Time: The U.S. and the Coup. 2004. Transcripts of interviews conducted live during the 2004 coup, and two essays on its historical context. (Interviews on archive at: www.democracynow.org (http://www.democracynow.org)).
Paul Farmer; The Uses of Haiti. Common Courage Press, (3rd edition, 2006). The history of Haiti to 2004, with an update of U.S. policy towards Haiti and Haitian immigrants. Also features case studies of individual Haitians.
Paul Farmer, Infections and Inequalities, The Modern Plagues. University of California Press, 1999. HIV aids, tuberculosis and health inequity in Haiti.
Justin Podur; Haiti's New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation; 208 pp, Between The Lines Press, October, 2013
Yasmine Shamsie, Andrew Thompson (editors); Haiti, Hope for a Fragile State. Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2006. This book is the product of a (partially Canadian government funded) conference on Canada’s “3-D” (defence, development and diplomacy) engagement in Haiti. Most of the contributions align closely with the Canadian and U.S. government narrative of the events leading to the 2004 coup removing the Lavalas/Aristide government and the Canadian government version of how best to rebuild in the aftermath.
Earthquake 2010 and the Earthquake aftermath
Jonathan Katz; The Big Red Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster; Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. A well-informed account by an Associated Press journalist who was resident in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.
Mark Schuller, Pablo Morales, ed.; Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake; Kumarian Press, 2012. This is a collection of essays by leading Haitian and international voices and activists in the struggle to chart a new course for Haiti following the earthquake, one based on political sovereignty and social justice.
Paul Farmer; Haiti After The Earthquake. Public Affairs Books, 2011. The co-founder of Partners In Health looks at Haiti one year after the earthquake and delves into the history of intervention by foreign powers in Haiti that caused the country to be so vulnerable to the catastrophe of January 12, 2010.
Amy Wilentz: Farewell Fred Voodoo. Simon and Schuster Books, 2013. “Wilentz is .. the perfect guide through the heartbreak and beauty of post-earthquake Haiti.” - Barabara Ehrenreich. Wilentz skewers the often patronizing view of Haiti by journalists and the many passing through aid ‘experts’ and do-gooders bent on saving Haiti.
Beverly Bell; Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti's Divide; Cornell University Press, June 2013. Accounts of the post- earthquake situation as experienced by people in the street and in the camps of Port au Prince.
Peter Orner and Evan Lyon (editors) Lavil, Life, Love and Death in Port au Prince. Verso Books, 2017. An oral history collection from citizens of Port au Prince. “Lavil brings to the fore the voices of the people of the wounded city of Part au Prince” - Paul Farmer.
Human Rights, Para Militarism
Fran Quigley; How Human Rights Can Build Haiti; 223 pp, Vanderbilt University Press, 2014. "A brilliant and courageous work on one of the burning focal points of human and political struggle and international injustice." --Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities and Death at an Early Age, winner of the National Book Award
Jeb Sprague; Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti. Monthly Review Press, 2012. In this path-breaking book, Jeb Sprague investigates the dangerous world of right-wing paramilitarism in Haiti and its role in undermining the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people. Sprague focuses on the period beginning in 1990 with the rise of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the right-wing movements that succeeded in driving him from power. Over the ensuing two decades, paramilitary violence was largely directed against the poor and supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas movement, taking the lives of thousands of Haitians. Read more - http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb3003/).
Haitian Culture and Religion
Maya Deren; Divine Horsemen The Living Gods of Haiti. McPherson and Company, 1953. A respectful review of Haitian religious practices.
Wade Davis; The Serpent and The Rainbow. Simon and Schuster, 1985. Recounts Davis’ quest for ‘zombie poison’. This is a latter-day contribution to the long history of sensationalized accounts of Haitian voodoo and cultural/religious practices. It was later made into a Hollywood movie that further sensationalized the themes of the book.
J. Michael Dash; Culture and Customs of Haiti. Greenwood Press, 2001
Jennie E. Smith: When the Hands Are Many, Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti. Cornell University Press, 2001. A thorough and sympathetic, but unglossed ethnographic study of rural Haiti. A majority of Haitians are rural but there are very few publications on their way of life and situation.
Gage Averill; A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, Popular Music and Power in Haiti. University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Elizabeth McAlister; Rara, Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora. University of California Press, 2002. Rara music and the Rara festival during Lent are central to the Haitian Vodou religion. “This... book is about the blend of music, religion and politics in Haiti’s culture” George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads
Mauro Peressini and Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique; Vodou. Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2012. A beautifully written and illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibit of 300 Vodou artifacts at the Museum from November 15, 2012 to February 23, 2014.
International Aid, NGOs
Mark Schuller; Killing with Kindness Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs; Rutgers University Press, October 2012.
Nik Barry Shaw, Dru Oja Jay; Paved With Good Intentions, Canada’s Development NGOs, from Idealism to Imperialism. Fernwood Publishing, 2012.. Includes a chapter on the role of Canadian NGOs in Haiti and in the leadup to the 2004 coup.
Timothy Schwartz; Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking. Self published, 2008. An anthropologist's personal story of working with foreign aid agencies.
Timothy Schwartz; The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Struggle. Self-published, 2017. An expose, sometimes hyperbolic, of the Haitian aid industry with a focus on the earthquake aftermath and post-earthquake aid. Schwartz is an anthropologist with a lifetime of experience in the country.
Terry F. Buss, Haiti In The Balance. Why Foreign Aid Has Failed and What We Can Do About It. Brookings Institution Press, 2008. From the perspective of an academic who is unquestioning about the role of the U.S. government in Haiti.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide; An Autobiography; 1992, translated and published in English in 1993, Orbis Books.
Tracy Kidder; Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. New York, Random House, 2004. Farmer first went to Haiti to do volunteer medical work, in 1983 and has remained actively involved in Haiti ever since. He cofounded Partners In Health, which operates a teaching hospital in Mirebalais.
For a comprehensive compilation of reviews of books on Haiti, many written by Bob Corbett, see:
Appel : nous cherchons quelqu'un qui puisse mettre à jour la liste des livres sur Haïti en français.
Publié dernièrement :
Mer et liberté; et Aux origines du drame d’Haiti; droit et commerce maritime; Vertus Saint-Louis; Port au Prince 2009
Genèse de l’État Haïtien (1804-1859); Michel Hector and Laennec Hurbon; Port au Prince 2009.
Escavlage, métissage et liberté : la révolution française en Guadeloupe, 1789-1802; Frédéric Régent; Paris 2004.