Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture (Allen Lane, 2020) by Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh (CUF Lecturer in Politics and Tutorial Fellow in Politics) has been shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020, ‘the UK’s premier prize for non-fiction books’.
Black Spartacus is a biography of the man who spearheaded the slave revolution that led to Haiti’s independence, whom the author describes as ‘the first black superhero of the modern age’.
The Haitian Revolution began in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue with a slave revolt in August 1791, and culminated a dozen years later in the proclamation of the world’s first independent black state. After the abolition of slavery in 1793, Toussaint Louverture, himself a former slave, became the leader of the colony’s black population, the commander of its republican army and eventually its governor. During the course of his extraordinary life he confronted some of the dominant forces of his age - slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism and racial hierarchy.
The book has received widespread critical acclaim, being described, for example, as ‘a triumph. It takes a nearly impossibly complex history and weaves it into a compelling and accurate narrative that reads like fiction’ (Financial Times); ‘a tour de force: by far the most complete, authoritative and persuasive biography of Toussaint that we are likely to have for a long time…an extraordinarily gripping read’ (Guardian); ‘a balanced, yet sympathetic, biography which throws light on Toussaint’s personality and acknowledges the importance of his political ideals … Toussaint is now a global figure, a byword for Black empowerment, and as such he has become a hero for our times’ (Times Literary Supplement).
The Baillie Gifford Prize, which describes itself as ‘the UK’s premier prize for non-fiction books’, rewards ‘excellence in non-fiction writing, bringing the best in intelligent reflection on the world to new readers’. The winner will be announced on 24 November.
Sudhir will giving an online lecture about his book, open to all, on 24 November, 5.00p.m. Please register here.