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Reviews of One Frenchman, Four Revolutions: General Ferrand and the Peoples of the Caribbean

One Frenchman, Four Revolutions tells of a man who lived extraordinarily in extraordinary times, an excellent addition to any historical biography collection.” — The Midwest Book Review

“In One Frenchman, Four Revolutions, Fernando Picó uses Ferrand’s career and governance in Santo Domingo as a lens through which to better understand a dynamic late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Caribbean and Atlantic world of slave revolution, political upheaval, and re-enslavement. This pioneering work provides an important overview of a remarkably understudied episode in Caribbean history and also proposes several promising avenues for future research. It is written in an engaging style and draws upon a rich source base to offer important new insights.

“In the opening chapter, Picó offers a concise and useful analysis of the importance of the Caribbean in eighteenth-century Atlantic geopolitics. The next chapter details the advent and course of the great slave revolution in Saint-Domingue during 1789–1804. In this informative account, Picó persuasively summarizes one of the most complex episodes in world history in a manner that will appeal to both specialists and students … The Ferrand regime indeed continually engaged in conflicts with the nation on its western border, and Picó’s discussion of Ferrand’s 1805 battles against the forces of Jean-Jacques Dessalines is especially convincingly argued and well-documented. In this chapter, Picó skillfully explains the military policies of the Ferrand regime within the contexts of the collapse of French rule and slavery in Haiti and the shifting geopolitics of the broader Caribbean and Atlantic. He does an admirable job of conveying that the Ferrand regime cannot be properly understood without reference to these contexts.

“Chapters 5 and 6, which detail the fall of the Ferrand regime in 1808–1809, constitute the book’s strongest section. Picó situates the expulsion of the French from Santo Domingo within the broader contexts of the Peninsular War, the Franco-British rivalry, and Haiti’s internal conflict. The quoted excerpts usefully convey a sense of different parties’ perspectives on the conflict, while the trans-imperial analysis complements the scholarship of Ada Ferrer, Matt Childs, David Geggus, and others who have closely examined the effects of the Haitian Revolution on colonialism and slavery elsewhere in the hemisphere, including in the Spanish American independence wars. These chapters should inspire research that further examines the interrelationships between the French and Spanish imperial crises of the Haitian Revolutionary era and the significance of the Ferrand episode for independence movements elsewhere in Latin America. This informative volume could be usefully assigned to undergraduates in a Caribbean or Latin American history course, and as a reference it deserves a spot on the bookshelves of historians of the Caribbean…the book represents a valuable contribution to the literature on Dominican, Haitian, and Caribbean history and should serve to foment further scholarship on a vital chapter in these histories.” — Graham Nessler, New West Indian Guide