The most recommended books on Toussaint Louverture

Who picked these books? Meet our 6 experts.

6 authors created a book list connected to Toussaint Louverture, and here are their favorite Toussaint Louverture books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below

Christian Høgsbjerg Author Of Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

From my list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we are thinking of the origins or roots of contemporary movements like #BlackLivesMatter, the Haitian Revolution represents a foundational, inspirational moment but one of also wider world-historical impact and importance – ‘the only successful slave revolt in history’ – and so as the most outstanding leader to emerge during that revolutionary upheaval Toussaint Louverture will always retain relevance and iconic significance. I've had an interest in Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution ever since undertaking my doctorate on how the black Trinidadian revolutionary historian C.L.R. James came to write his classic history of the Haitian Revolution. I currently teach history, including the history of Atlantic slavery and abolition, in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton. 

Christian's book list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world

Christian Høgsbjerg Why did Christian love this book?

Carolyn Fick was a doctoral student of C.L.R. James and George Rudé during the 1970s in Montreal, Canada, and in keeping with the turn of social history towards ‘history from below’ in that decade, produced a pioneering study in 1990 of the wider contested forms of revolutionary leadership beyond Toussaint Louverture during the Haitian Revolution, particularly in the South of what was then French colonial Saint Domingue. Carolyn remains a leading historian of the Haitian Revolution, and her work helps us better understand the class dynamics of the revolutionary process as it unfolded, and the tragedy of Toussaint as he developed into a representative of a new land-owning ruling class in Saint Domingue, even as he continued to strike powerful blows at European slave-owning colonial powers.  

By Carolyn E. Fick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Making of Haiti as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1789 the French colony of Saint Domingue was the wealthiest and most flourishing of the Caribbean slave colonies, its economy based on the forced labor of more than half a million black slaves raided from their African homelands. The revolt of this underclass in 1791-the only successful slave rebellion in history-gained the slaves their freedom and set in motion the colony's struggle for independence as the black republic of Haiti.

In this pioneering study, Carolyn E. Fick argues that the repressed and uneducated slaves were the principal architects both of their own freedom and of the successful movement toward…


Book cover of Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

Christian Høgsbjerg Author Of Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

From my list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we are thinking of the origins or roots of contemporary movements like #BlackLivesMatter, the Haitian Revolution represents a foundational, inspirational moment but one of also wider world-historical impact and importance – ‘the only successful slave revolt in history’ – and so as the most outstanding leader to emerge during that revolutionary upheaval Toussaint Louverture will always retain relevance and iconic significance. I've had an interest in Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution ever since undertaking my doctorate on how the black Trinidadian revolutionary historian C.L.R. James came to write his classic history of the Haitian Revolution. I currently teach history, including the history of Atlantic slavery and abolition, in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton. 

Christian's book list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world

Christian Høgsbjerg Why did Christian love this book?

There have been many biographies and studies of Toussaint Louverture written in the two centuries and more since his death in a French prison in 1803, including from within Haiti itself where a rich nationalist historiography of the revolution has always existed. Sudhir Hazareesingh builds on the best of these and utilises the latest archival research in his impressive study Black Spartacus, likely to be the definitive biography of ‘the epic life of Toussaint Louverture’ for the foreseeable future. Though Hazareesingh’s focus on Toussaint as a ‘superhero’ means he inherently has little if any use for the methodology of history ‘from below’ outlined in many of the other works on the Haitian Revolution I have selected here, and he downplays the critical role of other revolutionary leaders at various points, nonetheless the work is still very valuable for helping us understand Toussaint himself.  

Hazareesingh makes powerful and sophisticated arguments…

By Sudhir Hazareesingh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Spartacus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** WINNER of THE WOLFSON HISTORY PRIZE, 2021 **

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, 2020
Shortlisted for the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, 2020
Finalist for the American Library in Paris Book Award, 2021
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography, 2021
Shortlisted for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, 2020
Finalist for the Pen/Jacqueline Bogard Weld Award for Biography, 2020
Shortlisted for the Prix Chateau de Versailles du Livre d'Histoire, 2021
Shortlisted for the Prix Jean d'Ormesson, 2021

'A triumph' Financial Times
'Extraordinarily gripping ... a tour de force' Guardian

The Haitian…


Book cover of The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution

Paddy Docherty Author Of Blood and Bronze: The British Empire and the Sack of Benin

From Paddy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Artist Autistic

Paddy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Paddy Docherty Why did Paddy love this book?

I finally did myself the favour of reading The Black Jacobins. This landmark work tells the neglected, remarkable story of the Haitian Revolution of 1791, the most successful slave revolt in history.

Perhaps a book can have no greater compliment than the fact that, as a reader, I now devoutly wish that I had read it many years ago.

Authoritative and beautifully written, it is an essential corrective to the nefarious efforts by many outsiders over the century following the revolution to suppress the tale of a black republic triumphing over European enemies. This is a captivating story of a past still too often sidelined.

By C.L.R. James,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Black Jacobins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1791, inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, the slaves of San Domingo rose in revolt. Despite invasion by a series of British, Spanish and Napoleonic armies, their twelve-year struggle led to the creation of Haiti, the first independent black republic outside Africa. Only three years later, the British and Americans ended the Atlantic slave trade.

In this outstanding example of vivid, committed and empathetic historical analysis, C. L. R. James illuminates these epoch-making events. He explores the appalling economic realities of the Caribbean economy, the roots of the world's only successful slave revolt and the utterly extraordinary…


Book cover of Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography

Keith Madsen Author Of The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint

From my list on the life and history of Haiti.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the time I heard of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people, my heart was drawn to that country. From 2012 to 2017 I lead five mission trips to Cap Haitian, where we toured mission work, helped Haitians build an elementary school, and met so many of these beautiful people. I ate the great cooking of “Mama Jo” who, along with her husband, hosted us. I gave “horsey” rides to children at a Port-au-Prince orphanage; and shared in prayer and singing with churches near Cap Haitian. In short, I fell in love with these people. How could I not write a novel of hope about them? 

Keith's book list on the life and history of Haiti

Keith Madsen Why did Keith love this book?

This is the definitive biography on Toussaint. First published in 1863, it clearly showed me why Toussaint L’Ouverture was one of the most admired world leaders of his time. They called him “the Black Napoleon!” Reading this book brought back to mind that I did a report on Haiti and Toussaint back when I was in junior high (“a long time ago in a universe far, far away!") Even at the time I was impressed by how much the Haitian Revolution influenced our own Civil War.  

By John Beard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toussaint L'Ouverture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a reproduction of a classic text optimised for kindle devices. We have endeavoured to create this version as close to the original artefact as possible. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we believe they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Book cover of All Souls' Rising

Keith Madsen Author Of The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint

From my list on the life and history of Haiti.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the time I heard of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people, my heart was drawn to that country. From 2012 to 2017 I lead five mission trips to Cap Haitian, where we toured mission work, helped Haitians build an elementary school, and met so many of these beautiful people. I ate the great cooking of “Mama Jo” who, along with her husband, hosted us. I gave “horsey” rides to children at a Port-au-Prince orphanage; and shared in prayer and singing with churches near Cap Haitian. In short, I fell in love with these people. How could I not write a novel of hope about them? 

Keith's book list on the life and history of Haiti

Keith Madsen Why did Keith love this book?

As I prepared to write my own novel on Haiti, I searched for a novel of merit already written as part of my preparation. I found this work of Madison Smartt Bell, which was nominated for the National Book Award. This author proved to be a master of the language. I admired his ability to bring Toussaint alive, as well as picturing the culture of the time, and the complexities of a war that changed history.  

By Madison Smartt Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Souls' Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A serious historical novel that reads like a dream." --The Washington Post Book World

"One of the most spohisticated fictional treatments of the enduring themes of class, color, and freedom." --San Francisco Chronicle

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FINALIST 

This first installment of the epic Haitian trilogy brings to life a decisive moment in the history of race, class, and colonialism. The slave uprising in Haiti was a momentous contribution to the tide of revolution that swept over the Western world at the end of the 1700s. A brutal rebellion that strove to overturn a vicious system of slavery,…


Book cover of Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution

Katlyn Marie Carter Author Of Democracy in Darkness: Secrecy and Transparency in the Age of Revolutions

From my list on revolutionary ideas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, specializing in the American and French Revolutions. The relationship between ideas and politics has fascinated me since I worked in media relations in Washington, DC. Because I think history can help us better understand our current political controversies and challenges, I write about the origins of representative democracy in the eighteenth century. I’m also an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame where I teach classes on colonial and revolutionary America, the Constitution, and history of the media.

Katlyn's book list on revolutionary ideas

Katlyn Marie Carter Why did Katlyn love this book?

The Haitian Revolution was long left out of the history of Atlantic revolutions, dismissed as a violent uprising of enslaved people without an ideological dimension.

Dubois’s book walks readers through the twists and turns of this decade-long revolution, highlighting the intellectual agency of enslaved and freed people and the ideological consequences of this transformative event.

The Haitian Revolution is a notoriously complicated event, but I found that this book provided coherence and a compelling analysis of the effects of this crucial moment in the history of democracy and movement for human rights. And it was a gripping read at that.

By Laurent Dubois,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Avengers of the New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first and only successful slave revolution in the Americas began in 1791 when thousands of brutally exploited slaves rose up against their masters on Saint-Domingue, the most profitable colony in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Within a few years, the slave insurgents forced the French administrators of the colony to emancipate them, a decision ratified by revolutionary Paris in 1794. This victory was a stunning challenge to the order of master/slave relations throughout the Americas, including the southern United States, reinforcing the most fervent hopes of slaves and the worst fears of masters.

But, peace eluded Saint-Domingue as British and…