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Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation Paperback – September 14, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“An engaging and wonderfully readable account of the circumstances leading up to the U.S. invasion of Haiti in 1994, and its restoration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as Haitian president.” ―Elizabeth Abbott, Trinity College, University of Toronto on Clinton in Haiti

“This is an extraordinarily well written account that places Clinton's Haitian foreign policy in historical perspective. Linguistic wit and analytical sophistication prevail as Girard skillfully weaves readers through the complexities and tragedy of Haiti's history and the highly touted, but unsuccessful aftermath of the 1994 "invasion" by U.S. troops to restore Aristide and democracy to this Caribbean republic. Until Clinton administration classified documents become available this will remain the standard account and an object lesson for all future American cut-and-run attempts at peace-keeping and nation-building.” ―Joan Hoff, Montana State University, Bozeman on Clinton in Haiti

“Written by an outstanding young French scholar of recent American history, this examination of U.S. intervention in Haiti under Bill Clinton probes the motivations behind an unnecessary military action and explains the ways in which objective failure is translated into political success. The author's finely-calibrated sense of irony makes his work as entertaining as it is instructive.” ―Alonzo L. Hamby, Ohio University, and author of For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s, on Clinton in Haiti

About the Author

Philippe Girard is an Assistant Professor of Caribbean History, McNeese State University of Louisiana.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230106617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230106611
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philippe Girard was born in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. He studied at Sciences Po in Paris and Ohio University and now teaches at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Girard has written three books on the history of Haiti. Clinton in Haiti (Palgrave 2004) uncovers the efforts by president-in-exile Jean-Bertrand Aristide to incite Bill Clinton to invade Haiti and restore him to power. Paradise Lost (Palgrave 2005) is a general history of Haiti from pre-Columbian times to the present that explains the historical roots of Haiti's current poverty; an expanded and updated paperback edition entitled Haiti: The Tumultuous History appeared in August 2010. Last but not least, The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon (University of Alabama Press, November 2011) is an ambitious research monograph that retraces the fate of the expedition that Napoleon Bonaparte sent to Haiti in 1802 to overthrow Toussaint Louverture.

Visit Dr. Girard's blog at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Sido on November 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
In spite of the proximity of Haiti to the U.S., very few Americans know much about this small island nation beyond the regular tragedies that show up on our news and that they practice voodoo. Philippe Girard's new book, Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation, is a great introduction to the fascinating, colorful and all too often tragic history of Haiti that spans her history from the early days of European exploration all the way to the 2010 earthquake. I am going to Haiti in January of 2011 and was looking for an introduction to her history and I found a goldmine with Girard's compact but thorough book.

What I especially liked is that Philippe Girard refuses to get into the blame game with Haiti's woes. It is true that Haiti was exploited in its early history but so were many other nations and they are not in nearly the same shape as Haiti. According to Girard, Haiti's woes can be placed squarely on centuries of corrupt leaders who have seized power in this island nation and used their nation as their own personal piggy bank. The end results is a giant welfare state that depends on foreign aid to function. Girard doesn't sugarcoat the racism of America and the horror of the slave trade but neither does he allow these events to be an excuse for Haiti's deplorable conditions.

What was most interesting was Girard's conclusion. He asks the obvious question being asked by his primarily American audience: what should the U.S. do to help Haiti? His answer was surprising but dead on: as little as possible. Haiti needs to come into the world economy on its own. Free food helps feed people but it destroys Haiti's agricultural sector.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By DA on February 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading Phillip Girard's, "Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation", I would make the following points.

1) Phillip Girard has an impressive résumé and his book offers keen insights into Haiti's current condition. The book succinctly and eloquently presents the issues and challenges facing Haiti today from a unique and modern perspective.

2) This is a book about recent events in Haiti's history (roughly the last 50 years). I would not characterize this book as a History of Haiti. Relatively little coverage is given to the events resulting in Haiti's independence. The book's treatment of Toussaint L'Ouverture, for example is pedestrian at best, in my view. He is relegated to a few pages in Chapter 2 (less than 10 out of 233) - despite the author's claim that Toussaint is "arguably, the most notable black individual in world history". He probably is - just not in this book.

3) Phillip Girard is NOT Haitian. While his efforts in this book are valuable and need to be applauded, the book has its limitations. If someone else writes your own history, it probably will be somewhat skewed. This is a foreigner's take on Haiti - which is fine - just keep this in mind as you read.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in Haiti. It is well worth the price.

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dominik Zakrzewski on July 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Girard does present Haiti's history in a multifaceted way. I do like the fact that he does not diminish the condition of Haiti and try to explain it in simple terms, as if the situation in Haiti was so juvenile and simplistic. It's not. what I disagreed with was Mr. Girard's clinical approach to Haitian history. Yes, he does present both sides of the argument but often times than not I believe that he ignores the psychological aspect of colonialism and it's reverberation on the human psyche.

Haiti was born in blood and violence plagued by people in power who tried to bring order to the nation only to replicate many of the injustices conceived by the French. Look at any oppressed people, when they come to power, due to the psychological damage, many impose the same conditions onto other as were imposed on them, i.e. Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, newly freed slaves that enslaved the native population of what was to become Liberia, Eastern Europeans looking down on other Eastern Europeans, etc.

What bothered me the most was how Mr. Girard starts the book with an assertive statement that Haitians are responsible for their own destiny. While that may be true and he DOES present the many obstacles that were put in front of Haiti (imperialism, colonialism, corruption and unfair trade agreements) he doesn't bring them into account in his OWN interpretation of the history and how these external factors contributed to the country's progress or lack-there-of. It's a good read but cold, removed and detached. Don't rely solely on THIS volume for ALL of your information on Haiti. It's important to read Farmer's books as well as Amy Wilentz (I'm not sure of any Haitian historians as of now that I may recommend but I would love to see their perspective) as well as Edwidge Danticatt's writing (fiction but it will give you an emotional connection to Haiti).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. on March 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been to Haiti about 15 times doing volunteer electrical work in various parts of the country starting in 1997. I Flew out of Port Au Prince by chance the day before the earthquake and returned a year later and was again in Port au Prince on the one year anniversary of this great tragedy. I will be there again in about one month. I have had a somewhat shallow and maybe naive understanding of Haitian history and the dynamics that make Haiti what it is today.

Girard's book has provided a helpful basic history of Haiti and with that has shed some light for me on some of the racial dynamics that have influenced Haiti from the very beginning of the revolution until now. His book immediately awakens the reader to the fact that the situation in Haiti is complex. I like the fact that he is honest and frank in pointing out where he feels there have been and still are problems and as painful as it may be for some to accept I think he is for the most part on the right track.

He addresses the question that everyone asks about Haiti, "Why is Haiti the way it is after 200 plus years!" He shares the frustration that all of us who have been involved with Haiti have experienced as we observe the miserable conditions which seem to change little over time and he offers some thoughtful suggestions on what can be done (or not done) in order for Haiti to one day improve.

I had a hard time putting the book down once I got a hold of it and I do recommend it to anyone with an interest in Haiti.
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