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Entrepôt of Revolutions

Saint-Domingue, Commercial Sovereignty, and the French-American Alliance

Manuel Covo

Publication Date - 18 October 2022

ISBN: 9780197626399

320 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


The Age of Revolutions has been celebrated for the momentous transition from absolute monarchies to representative governments and the creation of nation-states in the Atlantic world. Much less recognized than the spread of democratic ideals was the period's growing traffic of goods, capital, and people across imperial borders and reforming states' attempts to control this mobility.

Analyzing the American, French, and Haitian revolutions in an interconnected narrative, Manuel Covo centers imperial trade as a driving force, arguing that commercial factors preceded and conditioned political change across the revolutionary Atlantic. At the heart of these transformations was the "entrepôt," the island known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean," whose economy grew dramatically as a direct consequence of the American Revolution and the French-American alliance. Saint-Domingue was the single most profitable colony in the Americas in the second half of the eighteenth century, with its staggering production of sugar and coffee and the unpaid labor of enslaved people. The colony was so focused on its lucrative exports that it needed to import food and timber from North America, which generated enormous debate in France about the nature of its sovereignty over Saint-Domingue. At the same time, the newly independent United States had to come to terms with contradictory interests between the imperial ambitions of European powers, its connections with the Caribbean, and its own domestic debates over the future of slavery. This work sheds light on the three-way struggle among France, the United States, and Haiti to assert, define, and maintain "commercial" sovereignty.

Drawing on a wealth of archives in France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, Entrepôt of Revolutions offers an innovative perspective on the primacy of economic factors in this era, as politicians and theorists, planters and merchants, ship captains, smugglers, and the formerly enslaved all attempted to transform capitalism in the Atlantic world.


  • A connected, transimperial history that engages with scholarship in French, Haitian, US, and Atlantic history
  • Demonstrates how politicians and theorists, planters and merchants, ship captains and the formerly enslaved all attempted to shape commerce both in law or on the ground
  • Based on research in twenty-six archival depositories in France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including business reports and consular papers

About the Author(s)

Manuel Covo is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


"Manuel Covo takes the excellent recent scholarship on Haiti to a new level by showing the centrality of the island nation to the political economy and culture of the 'age of revolution.' This smart, sophisticated, deeply researched, and gracefully written book establishes its author as a leading historian of the French Atlantic." -- Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom

"Manuel Covo's exciting monograph gives us a new picture of the ways in which the Haitian Revolution reshaped the Atlantic world. Covo's convincing research shows that the economic consequences of that upheaval were as important as its impact on slavery. This book will be essential reading not just for scholars of French colonial history and of the Haitian Revolution, but for those working on this period of American history." -- Jeremy D. Popkin, author of A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution

"Entrepôt of Revolutions is an innovative interpretation of the centrality of commerce to the age of Atlantic revolutions. Through Manuel Covo's engaging narrative, we see how Saint-Domingue was a dynamic site of commercial experimentation, where American, French, and Haitian actors sought to capitalize on republican ruptures and, in the process, shaped the contours of all three revolutions. Exhaustively researched and smartly conceived, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the era." -- Ashli White, University of Miami

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1 The Greatest Revolution in Commerce and Politics, 1776-1784
    Chapter 2 An Inexhaustible Mine of Wealth, 1784-1788
    Chapter 3 The Whole and the Parts, 1789-1790
    Chapter 4 An Empire of Liberty? 1790-1793
    Chapter 5 The Best of a Bad Bargain, 1789-1793
    Chapter 6 The Atlantic Politics of Commercial Republicanism, 1793-1794
    Chapter 7 The Unfree Trade of an Abolitionist Colony, 1793-1796
    Chapter 8 Politicizing Merchant Identities, 1793-1798
    Chapter 9 Trade and War: A Fiscal-Military State in the French Empire, 1797-1801
    Epilogue The Collapse of Commercial Republicanism and the Enduring Power of Imperial Trade

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