New Book: L’Amère patrie

L’Amère patrie: Histoire des Antilles françaises au XXe siècle by Jacques Dumont, was published by Fayard earlier this year. He traces the history of the French Caribbean through the 20th century to clarify how this trajectory led to the major strikes that shook Guadeloupe and Martinique in 2009.

Publishers’ description: Set apart in colonial history, these former sugar colonies nevertheless had a very singular destiny in the French empire. In 1848, with the abolition of slavery, French Antilleans are declared French citizens, but gaining freedom did not alter their daily lives. From the return of the Republic in 1870, the claim of equality sings the story of the French West Indies. It is carried out by a bourgeoisie of color that wishes to conform to the model of civilization embodied in the motherland. 

This quest seems to lead to 1946, when Guadeloupe and Martinique become French departments. Yet genuine equality–including social and economic— is constantly deferred. The solutions proposed, often perceived as discriminating, reinforce the feeling of being left out in the Caribbean.

Based on substantial archival research and intimate knowledge of these islands, Jacques Dumont shows how political demands have gradually been displaced in the area of cultural identity, digging deeper the misunderstanding between the Caribbean and the metropolis. Retracing the rise of disillusionment in the 20th century in Guadeloupe and Martinique, he fills a major gap in our history.

Professor Jacques Dumont teaches history at the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (Pointe-à-Pitre).

For full article and review (in French), see  and

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