Photo courtesy of Pernille Røge
The Mémorial de l’Anse Caffard on Martinique commemorates the death of hundreds of captives who lost their lives in a shipwreck off the coast of Diamant in 1830.
by Pernille Røge, Assistant Professor
Department of History University of Pittsburgh
The islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique constitute one of the western-most corners of France and the European Union. Currently administered as French overseas departments (DOM, Department d’Outre-Mer), the islands also represent lingering expressions of France’s imperial and slaving past. Last summer, thanks in part to a faculty research grant from the EUCE/ESC, I visited Guadeloupe, Martinique, and France as part of my research project on the old-regime origins of France’s republican empire (the Old Regime was the name given to France’s absolute monarchy after it was toppled in the French Revolution of 1789). Often distinguished from the exploitative slave-driven colonial system of the early modern period, the republican empire has been depicted as a more humane empire that made efforts to slowly integrate France’s old sugar colonies in the Americas into the metropolitan system.
Prior to 1789, the French sugar colonies were protected markets for French manufactured goods and suppliers of exotic commodities such as raw sugar, coffee, and tobacco. No foreign trade was allowed in the colonies, even though France often failed to satisfy essential needs. Unsurprisingly, the early modern history of the islands is marred with stories of clashes between plantation owners living on the island (the colons) who desperately needed slaves, food, and tools to maintain a high level of production and French metropolitan merchants, whose cargo might not find an easy outlet due to an ongoing contraband trade. Whenever such disputes came to a head, French metropolitan voices castigated the colons for their disloyalty to France and dangerous spirit of independence.
The islands never succeeded in obtaining equal status or having their voices count as much as those of metropolitan merchants during the Old Regime. Nevertheless, Guadeloupe’s swift capitulation to the British during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) suggested to the crown that reform was needed if the French colonial empire were to remain. The decades after the war thus saw a rapprochement between the metropole and the colons of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Hardly any original archival material on the early modern period is housed in the Archives Départementales in Fort-de-France, Martinique. Visiting the islands offers the historian visual, climatic, and cultural links to the past – a past where the plantation complex pitted not only plantation owners against merchants, but also free people of color against petit-blancs (small whites), or free blacks against African slaves.
When I visited Guadeloupe and Martinique, however, I soon discovered that the islands are still deeply involved in the production of what were once colonial commodities. Banana plantations and fields of sugarcane stretch across both islands and are worked by the many descendants of slaves who still inhabit the islands. In contrast, there are few descendants of plantation owners left. Most have migrated back to France and now only come to visit the islands together with a growing number of international tourists. Nevertheless, restored sugar plantations (habitations) speak volumes about their former presence. One such is the magnificent estate, the Chateau Dubuq, on the Presque’île de la Caravelle, which belonged to the wealthy Dubuq family. In the early eighteenth century, the Dubuqs were notorious for their involvement in a white planter rebellion against the French administration. Still, they were some of the most prosperous and powerful members of the white planter aristocracy throughout the colonial period.
Another popular tourist spot with historical gravitas is the childhood home of France’s first Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, at Les Trois-Îlets. Joséphine was born into a white creole (colonial-born) planter family on Martinique before moving to France. Her connections to the French sugar lobby helped persuade Napoleon to reinstate slavery in the French colonies in 1802, eight years after the French revolutionary government had first abolished it. Her ambiguous legacy is well-captured in a statue of her in La Savane Park at Fort-de-France. Raised in her honor in 1859, the statue has been missing its head since 1991 and has even more recently been covered in red-stained paint.
The decapitated statue of Josephine is a potent symbol of Guadeloupe and Martinique’s ongoing struggle to come to terms with a past that saw the enslavement and death of hundreds of thousands of African captives. And there are many more such symbols around. On Guadeloupe, the port of Petit-Canal leaves a haunting impression of what awaited an African captive once he or she arrived after the weeks-long Atlantic crossing. Petit-Canal was where slave ships would unload their cargo. From the canal, a staircase known as the Marches des Esclaves leads up to a Church Square where African captives were sold to plantation owners. The steps were constructed by slaves and are now marked with the names of their original ethnic roots: Congos, Ouolof, Yorubas, Ibos, Peuls, Bamilekes.
On Martinique, the Mémorial de l’Anse Caffard commemorates another tragic yet not uncommon story of the islands’ history: the death of hundreds of captives who lost their lives in a shipwreck off the coast of Diamant in 1830. Slaves from a nearby plantation managed to save some of these captives, but the majority drowned while still locked in chains. Today, fifteen large identical statues cut out of white stone stare at the spot where the ship went down and in the direction of the homeland of the drowned: Guinée. Their blank faces seem empty yet mournful.
I visited this memorial during the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Aimé Césaire. To get there, I had rented a car from a local retiree who happily spoke of Aimé Césaire, or “Papa Césaire” as he called him. To the Anglophone world, Césaire is most famous for his involvement in the founding of the French literary movement Négritude. However, he was also the mayor of Fort-de-France, a deputy to the French National Assembly, and one of the main authors of the 1946 law that led to the departmentalization of the former colonies. Aside from lauding the poet and politician, the retiree proudly told me that Césaire had ‘mastered the French language better than any Frenchman in the National Assembly.’
Anyone who wants to investigate the history of this period through archival sources has to go to France. After my Caribbean visit, I took a close look at the textual evidence of Martinique and Guadeloupe’s eighteenth-century struggle to obtain a status equal to France’s domestic provinces. The month I spent in the National Archives in Paris and Aix-en Provence were valuable because that is where most of the paper trails of colonial governors, plantation owners, merchants, free people of color, and slaves are allocated. I was particularly interested in finding evidence of any sustained debate on this matter between the colons, French merchants, and the colonial administration. A small step towards some rights and integration came in the early 1760s, when Martinique’s plantation owners obtained representation at court. Their first representative was no other than Monsieur Jean Dubuq of the wealthy Dubuq family.
Such advance towards integration and equal recognition only benefitted the white plantation owners. Not until after the bloody slave rebellion on Saint-Domingue in 1791, which lead to the abolition of slavery in all of the remaining colonies by the French revolutionary government in 1794, were the islands and its total population integrated into the French Republic. The Revolutionary Constitution of the Year III (August 22, 1796), Article 6, stressed the full and equal integration of the colonies into the French Republic (‘Les colonies françaises sont parties intégrantes de la République, et sont soumises à la même loi constitutionnelle’). At this point, however, the colons were no longer interested in obtaining equal status. Equal status meant the universal application of metropolitan laws in the colonies – not only commercial ones, but also the decree of February 4, 1794 which established the abolition of slavery in all of the French colonies. Many planters therefore migrated to the British colonies or the United States. As the Revolution abated and Napoleon rose to avenge the Old Regime, the view that slavery and special laws had to be applied in the colonies resurfaced again – this time it was put forth not by French merchants, but by the white plantation owners, the peers of Joséphine. A decree of 1802 restored the Old Regime in the colonies and prolonged slavery on the islands for an additional forty-six years until it was definitively abolished during the Revolution of 1848. Another hundred years would pass before France acknowledged these islands as departments of the French Republic.
The Law of March 19, 1946, which conferred upon the colonies a political status equal to French metropolitan departments, is seen both as a triumphant moment of decolonization and a republican expansion of France Outre-Mer. Today, the DOM are no longer captive markets of metropolitan France. You certainly still see French manufactured goods everywhere, from Bordeaux wines on the dining tables to the Peugeots, Renaults and Citroëns on the roads. However, no direct force is exerted. In fact, some in France claim that the roles have been reversed. The islands receive large annual subsidies from France since the cultivation of sugarcane, bananas and the tourist industry cannot sustain their economy. They are part of the Eurozone and can trade with foreigners yet expect their products to be purchased by France. The spirit of rebellion and independence seems to have died out. Instead, the local population enjoys the benefits of its departmental status. As the retiree who spoke with pride of Aimé Césaire also told me when I asked about his feelings towards the metropolis: ‘It is great to be French.’ €
Welcome Back Reception
On Friday, Sept. 5, the European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center held its Welcome Back Reception to kick off the new school year. Pictured above (top, clockwise): Dr. Andrew Konitzer, Acting Director of the Russian and East European Studies Center, listens to Dr. Bill Harbert, Professor of Geophysics, and Dr. Allyson Delnore, Associate Director of the EUCE/ESC. Also pictured above (bottom): UCIS Director Larry Feick speaks to Stephen Lund, Assistant Director of the EUCE/ESC.
Conversations on Europe
On Oct. 3, the EUCE/ESC continued its monthly virtual roundtable series, Conversations on Europe, with a videoconference devoted to, “25 Years of the Berlin Republic.” The Conversation was moderated by Steven Sokol, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, which also served as co-sponsor. (Above, right) Sokol laughs with fellow panelists Ron Linden, EUCE/ESC Director, and Georg Menz, Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science. Other panelists included Margaret Littler from the University of Manchester, Jack Janes from the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and Ruprecht Polenz, a German politician and former Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. (Above, left) Polenz responds to Victoria Harms, a PhD Candidate in the History Department.
Photo courtesy of Harry Clapsis
Harry Clapsis with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this summer at the American Embassy in Athens.
Learning Through Working: An Experience at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greence
by Harry Clapsis, Department of Political Science
University of Pittsburgh
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.
This summer, with the assistance of the Mark Nordenberg Internship Abroad Scholarship from the EUCE/ESC, I completed an internship in the political section of the United States Embassy in Athens, Greece. This was my second time interning with the Department of State. I interned at Embassy Nicosia last year. I served in the political section in Athens for three months. I monitored elections, conducted research, wrote a variety of reporting cables, represented the Embassy at various representational events, and helped prepare for a Cabinet-level visit to the country.
I was fortunate to be stationed in Athens during an interesting time for the country. When I arrived in May, Greece held the rotating European Council Presidency, giving me a front-seat view to European policymaking. In addition, local, regional, and European Parliament elections were held during my time there. Greece is just emerging from a devastating six-year recession, and is the recipient of a 240 billion euro international bailout package from the “troika” of lenders (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund). The government is implementing an extensive series of politically unpopular but necessary economic reforms as part of its economic program. All of these factors combined for an interesting period in the Greek political realm.
One of the highlights of my time in Athens was when I helped prepare for a Cabinet-level visit to the country. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Athens to participate in a US-EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting. A lot of work was necessary to ensure that the visit went off without any problems. This included tracking all of the people coming to Greece from Washington, planning an event with the Attorney General, and ensuring that we accurately drafted detailed notes on what was said during the Ministerial meeting. While it was a busy time, I was able to see first-hand the amount of work that goes into a Cabinet-level visit.
In Greece, I benefited from hearing different perspectives on several issues. I firmly believe that most of a diplomat’s time should be spent outside of the office in meetings, talking to people, and trying to hear a wide variety of opinions in order to draw his/her own conclusions. In Athens, I was able to do that constantly. Even though I was just an intern, I was able to set up my own meetings to meet with contacts to hear their views on a variety of issues, along with participating with Political Section staff in other meetings. Talking with academics and government officials was very rewarding and enabled me to draw on their perspectives in my analyses.
While my time of State Department internships has concluded, I can say with confidence that I had the time of my life while stationed at two U.S. Embassies. I highly recommend that everyone interested in international affairs apply for a State Department internship. I have been able to work with incredible officers who taught me how the State Department works, but also taught me how to think on a larger scale. Just the opportunity to work alongside Foreign Service Officers makes applying for this internship so great. This internship was a life-changing experience that I wouldn’t have been able to realize if it wasn’t for the generous support of the University of Pittsburgh’s Nordenberg Internship Abroad Scholarship. €
Upcoming Grant and Fellowship Deadlines
EUCE/ESC Travel Grants for Graduate Students
The EUCE/ESC has funds available to graduate students to help defray costs involved in traveling to and participating in regional, national, or international scholarly conferences. In order to be eligible, graduate students must 1) be presenting a paper (i.e. not acting as discussant or chair) and be on the program of the conference; 2) Be presenting a paper that has some aspect of European life, historical or contemporary, domestic or international, or European integration as its main focus. (Topics in the humanities as well as in the social sciences and those dealing with the countries of Europe and/or the European Union are eligible. For contemporary East European countries, topics must deal with links to or impact of the European Union.) For other requirements and application procedures visit: http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/euce. No Deadline.
The Nationality Rooms Summer Study Abroad Scholarship Program
The University of Pittsburgh has announced the 2015 Nationality Rooms awards. Eligibility requirements include: being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, a full-time undergraduate or graduate student for the fall and spring terms prior to studying abroad, a full-time student for the fall and spring terms following the study abroad, proposal must relate to career goals, and you must have foreign language skills. For more details, including a schedule for information sessions, inquire at the Nationality Rooms Programs office, 1209 Cathedral of Learning, e-mail Scholarship Administrator Christina Lagnese at email@example.com, or visit http://www.nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/scholarshipsgrants. Deadline: Jan. 8, 2015 for undergraduates and Jan. 22, 2015 for graduates.
This month, EUCE/ESC Newsletter Editor Gavin Jenkins interviewed Andrew Stark, former Technology Graduate Student Assistant (GSA) for the EUCE/ESC. In 2013, Stark (pictured above with European Parliament President Martin Schulz) received his Master of Public and International Affairs from GSPIA, and in the summer of 2012, he studied EU institutions and policymaking in Brussels on a jointly funded GSPIA-EUCE scholarship. This summer, he completed an internship with the European Parliament. His next stop will be Cambridge, where he will pursue a PhD in Political Science, focusing on state-building in pre-accession EU states. He grew up in Nevada and Kansas, receiving his bachelor’s degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures and International Studies from the University of Kansas.
Q: How did working as a GSA for the EUCE/ESC help you? What was it like working here?
A: Working as a GSA provided me the opportunity to plug-in to the network of EU/European professionals in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and beyond. Through the Center’s programs and events, I was introduced to a number of officials, diplomats, and academics who helped me begin to build a professional network while at GSPIA. It was a wonderful experience. The staff really worked as a unit, creating a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the Center and, therefore, the presence of EU/European studies at Pitt. I think you need only look at the accolades and achievements that have been garnered by such a small staff to get an idea of how well everyone works together to further the EUCE/ESC’s missions.
Q: How did you get your internship with the European Parliament, and what were your responsibilities there?
A: I met the man who would become my supervisor while presenting a paper at Pitt’s annual Graduate Conference on the EU. He was the Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the European Parliament and keynote speaker at the conference in 2013. We kept in touch after the conference, built up a good rapport, and when I applied, I let him know. The rest is history.
So, I worked on the President’s four-person External Policies team which was headed by my boss. My team was responsible for advising the President on all issues occurring outside the EU, like international trade, security and defense, and international development. Therefore, I wrote briefs on various policy issues, as well as background notes on visiting dignitaries. I followed the legislative work of the EP’s Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Security and Defense, and Human Rights committees and sub-committees. I drafted meeting notes that were released to the wider Cabinet and relevant services in the EP, and I worked-on speeches and press releases pertaining to international issues. As you can imagine, things like Ukraine and ISIS accounted for quite a bit of the workload.
Q: What was it like living and working in Brussels?
A: Brussels is my favorite capital in Europe. Yes, there are cities that are more beautiful and older. However, the international nature of the Brussel’s populace and the multitude of cultures that have and continue to shape development of Belgium itself make it a gem. You have a feeling that something is always moving--except during summer holiday of course--and it is so well-connected to the UK, France, The Netherlands, and Germany that getting away isn’t a hassle either.
Q: Before your internship in Brussels, you worked in Kosovo. What were you doing there, and what was it like?
A: I was working with the United Nations Development Program. Specifically, I worked for their Aid for Trade Project as an intern and then was hired on as a full-time consultant. Most of our work centered around building the human and technical capacities of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, including commissioning and overseeing surveys and reports that generated data and findings to allow the government to make evidence-based policies in several industrial sectors. We also worked through the EU-established Regional Development Agencies to help foster economic growth at the local level.
It was a truly unique experience. I got to see the receiving end of international development first-hand; Kosovo is a place where every development strategy, policy, or program is done with a view towards EU accession. Now, granted, that is still a very long way off, but the drive and impetus to join is perhaps unrivaled in the Western Balkans.
Q: What are your future plans after Cambridge?
A: Ideally, I would like to return to Brussels to work in a policy-oriented think tank, consultancy, and/or as contractor for the European institutions. As a non-EU citizen, very few opportunities exist to work for the institutions themselves, but in these roles, I could at least remain part of and contribute to the EU policy world. And, of course, such opportunities exist in D.C. just on a much smaller scale.
Q: What advice would you give to Pitt students, undergraduates and graduates?
A: Get involved. Meet practitioners and experts in your field, network at EU/European-related events, study abroad, and learn languages. It sounds like a lot, but the more someone knows about the continent, has real-life experience there, and even just knows Europeans, the more successful they will be later on. My passion is in international development, but I loved studying the EU as well. So I searched for ways to combine these two professional/academic interests, and even though it’s taken a while to get things going, through sustained dedication, networking, and a little bit of luck, I’ve been able to have some amazing and fulfilling experiences, even as a non-European. €
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