The Death of the French Atlantic examines the sudden and irreversible decline of France's Atlantic empire in the Age of Revolution, and shows how three major forces undermined the country's competitive position as an Atlantic commercial power.
The first was war, especially war at sea against France's most consistent enemy and commercial rival in the eighteenth century, Great Britain. A series of colonial wars, from the Seven Years' War and the War of American Independence to the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars did much to drive France out of the North Atlantic.
The second was anti-slavery and the rise of a new moral conscience which challenged the right of Europeans to own slaves or to sacrifice the freedom of others to pursue national economic advantage.
The third was the French Revolution itself, which not only raised French hopes of achieving the Rights of Man for its own citizens but also sowed the seeds of insurrection in the slave societies of the New World, leading to the loss of Saint-Domingue and the creation of the first black republic in Haiti at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This proved critical to the economy of the French Caribbean, driving both colons and slaves from Saint-Domingue to seek shelter across the Atlantic
world, and leaving a bitter legacy in the French Caribbean. It has also created an uneasy memory of the slave trade in French ports like Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux, and has left an indelible mark on race relations in France today.
The Death of the French Atlantic: Trade, War, and Slavery in the Age of Revolution