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Thomas Martin Szymczyk

  • Dissertation

    Working Title: Jamaica and Saint-Domingue in the Age of Revolutions

    Jamaica and Saint-Domingue reached the peak of their prosperity during the so-called Saddle Age between the 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time, it was precisely this prosperity, a product of the ruthless exploitation of slave labour, which formed the basis for the fear of losing these indispensable nodes of the English and French colonial empires. Against the backdrop of the manifold challenges of imperial rule, be it the Anglo-French wars, slave revolts, the emerging abolitionism, or the implementation of the concepts of "liberty" and "liberté" in political reality in 1776 and 1789, respectively, the dissertation project examines the means by which the colonial elites of both islands tried to establish stability in this turbulent period and to strengthen their own social position in the process. With the self-image of the colonial upper class in the form of the "aristocratie de l'épiderme", which transcended national borders and is defined by the demarcation via "class" and "race", a trans-imperially effective category of investigation is introduced, which also had feedback effects on the respective metropolises, not least as a result of the Haitian Revolution. The project thus aims to draw a picture of two societies that, in conflict with themselves, the metropolis and each other, reacted to colonial crises in astonishing parallelity despite political differences.