Dr Joseph La Hausse de Lalouvière
BA (Cambridge), MA and PhD (Harvard)
I was born in Johannesburg, grew up mostly in Cambridge, England, studied for my history BA there, and then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for my PhD at Harvard, which I completed in 2020. I was the EHS Tawney Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research in London in 2020-21, until the start of my research fellowship at Emmanuel.
I am a historian of France, the French empire and the Atlantic world, with a focus on slavery, law and economic life. My current book project studies the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) in the French Caribbean, documenting in particular the fate of the more than 100,000 freed people whom colonists re-enslaved following the decision to reimpose slavery in the overseas empire. I argue that the history of counterrevolutionary enslavement in the early decades of the nineteenth century is key to understanding the power relations, institutions and practices that underpinned Atlantic slavery broadly. General emancipation in the 1790s dramatically transformed the societies of the French Caribbean. Emancipation gave formerly enslaved people and their descendants unprecedented, albeit fragile, economic and political power. Yet it also provoked a hostile reaction against black liberation within and beyond the French empire that contributed to a resurgence of slavery and racialization. The collision between abolitionism and mass re-enslavement, I suggest, became a defining struggle of the post-revolutionary era, not just in the French empire but across much of the Americas.
My research also explores the history of the trade in African captives in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. My article, ‘A Business Archive of the French Illegal Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century’ in Past and Present (August 2021), investigates the clandestine business practices of French, Spanish and Cuban merchants and mariners engaged in the illegal traffic of captives from West Africa to the Caribbean following the international prohibition of that commerce in the early nineteenth century. Beyond this, I am working on an article about French ethnography and the trade in captives in the eighteenth-century western Indian Ocean.
In future research I plan to explore widespread practices of legal disenfranchisement that accompanied the emergence of modern citizenship in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France and its empire.