Lecture: British Radicals and the Haitian Revolution

Raphael Hörmann will deliver a lecture, “British Radicals and the Haitian Revolution: John Thelwall & Robert Wedderburn,” on Wednesday, January 20, 2010, from 5:00-7:30pm in Room G37 of Senate House,University of London (Malet Street).

As the only successful slave revolt in history, the Haitian Revolution provoked a highly polarized global response from the contemporary Western public. This seminar focuses on two radical late 18th and early 19th-century figures and their treatment of the Haitian Revolution. Pro-slavery narratives evoked the specter of anarchy and cultural regression, whereas some abolitionists enthusiastically endorsed the revolution as a heroic struggle for universal liberation. British radical opinion also remained starkly divided. In spite of their disagreement on the Haitian Revolution, most radicals used it to draw comparisons between the rebellious slaves and the exploited British laboring classes.

Dr. Hörmann will focus on two radical figures and their treatment of the Haitian Revolution: John Thelwall (1764–1834), who was a co-founder of the London Corresponding Society and defendant in the 1794 trial for high treason, and Robert Wedderburn (1762-1833?). The latter, who was the son of Scottish slaveholder and a Jamaican slave woman, gained notoriety as an incendiary underground preacher in London. Hörmann argues that to investigate the parallels that they construct between the slaves in Caribbean and the laboring classes in Britain is key to elucidating their respective stance on the Haitian Revolution and on lower-class revolution in Britain.

Raphael Hörmann holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Glasgow. He has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Rostock and at the German Historical Institute in London. His current research project is on Anglophone narratives of the Haitian Revolution.

For more information, see http://americas.sas.ac.uk/events/events.php?id=6892

Print of Robert Wedderburn from http://www.intermix.org.uk/icons/icons_13_wedderburn.asp

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