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Freedwomen’s Familial Politics: Marriage, War and Rites of Registry in Post-Emancipation Saint-Domingue

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Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)

Abstract

Scholars, politicians and priests have long noted and often deplored the low rates of formal, state-sanctioned marriage in Haiti. Although the institution of slavery undermined the legal status of marriage between slaves in colonial Saint-Domingue, monarchical agents and the Code Noir nonetheless inveighed against immorality and enjoined marriage.1 French republicans, Napoleon’s generals, Haitian heads of state and revolutionary general Toussaint Louverture himself all invoked the virtues of marriage. Nonetheless, over the centuries social realities have accorded poorly, if at all, with legal codes and moral prescriptions. Church marriage is still typical only of the light-skinned elite. Far more customary in Haiti today are modes of structuring bonds of family and affective life outside the purview of state and church. According to various estimates, extra-legal relationships known as plasaj constitute between 60 and 85 per cent of conjugal unions. For most women today, unions are multiple, serial or both; 30 to 60 per cent of all Haitian families are headed by women.2

Keywords

  • Military Service
  • Labour Regime
  • Birth Registration
  • Labour Code
  • Civil Registry

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. The Code Noir, the royal edict of 1685 designed to regulate the legal status of slaves in the French empire, underwent numerous modifications over the decades. The classic work is by Louis Sala-Molins, Le code noir, ou le calvaire de Canaan (Paris, 1987). Sue Peabody explores the transformations of French law regarding race and liberty in ‘There Are No Slaves in France’: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (Oxford, 1996).

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© 2010 Elizabeth Colwill

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Colwill, E. (2010). Freedwomen’s Familial Politics: Marriage, War and Rites of Registry in Post-Emancipation Saint-Domingue. In: Hagemann, K., Mettele, G., Rendall, J. (eds) Gender, War and Politics. War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230283046_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230283046_4

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-30409-7

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