Revolution in France, Revolutions in the Caribbean

Authored by: Frédéric Régent

The Routledge Companion to the French Revolution in World History

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415820561
eBook ISBN: 9781315686011
Adobe ISBN: 9781317413875


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On the eve of the French Revolution, six colonial powers – Britain, Spain, France, the United Provinces, Denmark, and Sweden – were present in the Caribbean. The centre of gravity of Anglo–French rivalry, situated in India and North America during the Seven Years War and then in North America during the American War of Independence, had shifted to the Caribbean. A contemporary pointed to the importance of the Caribbean colonies for France: ‘In the turmoil currently sweeping through the European trading system, for France to lose sight of its colonies would make it England’s slave.’1 There were no outstanding points of friction between France and Britain on the North American continent. Sweden granted France trading concessions in exchange for Saint-Barthélemy, a small Caribbean island of limited strategic or economic importance to France. Slavery and colonial domination characterized the Caribbean at this time. Nowhere else in the world did such a large proportion of the population live as slaves. Slavery and colonial domination together were the bases of a plantation economy that dominated the region from the mid-sixteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

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