Citizen Soldiers: Emancipation and Military Service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean

TitleCitizen Soldiers: Emancipation and Military Service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDubois, Laurent
EditorBrown, Christopher Leslie, and Philip D. Morgan
Book TitleArming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age
Pagination233 - 254
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT

This chapter explores citizen soldier's emancipation and military service in the Revolutionary French Caribbean. During the 1790s, a global conflict erupted between France and Britain. Taking advantage of the conflicts within the French colonies, the British achieved one victory after another. They invaded Saint Domingue in September 1793 and soon overran Guadeloupe and Martinique. The decree of emancipation passed by the National Convention in Paris in February 1794 transformed the conflict into a war over the existence of slavery itself. The chapter examines the mobilization of armies of citizen-soldiers during the French Revolution and how military service provided many men with unprecedented opportunities for social mobility based on merit rather than background. It looks at the recruitment of free coloreds and ex-slaves into the armies of the Republic and its impact on social structure and politics, as well as the French military campaign against three British colonies in the Eastern Caribbean: St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent. Finally, the chapter discusses the coexistence between military service in the army and military service of the sailors who manned the republican corsairs.

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