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. Treacherously seized by Napoleon's invading army in 1802, this charismatic figure ended his days, in Wordsworth's phrase, 'the most unhappy man of men', imprisoned in a fortress in France.
Author Sudhir Hazareesingh was born in Mauritius, is a Fellow of the British Academy and has been a Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford, since 1990.
Previous writings include The Legend of Napoleon, In the Shadow of the General and How the French Think. Hazareesingh has also won a multitude of presitigious awards for his work - the Prix du Mémorial d'Ajaccio and the Prix de la Fondation Napoléon , a Prix d'Histoire du Sénatthe Grand Prix du Livre d'Idées. In 2020, he became a Grand Commander of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (G.C.S.K.), the highest honour of the Republic of Mauritius.
I like to think I'm very knowledgeable about history - I read a lot of history books, and insist on traipsing around every available museum when on holiday - and yet I'm more than happy to accept that there are substantial gaps in my knowledge - in part because of my general interests, and in part because of what we were taught at school and University etc.
I had heard the name of Toussaint Louverture before, but knew little of the man - which is a huge shame. I hope that, with the renewed interest in Alexander Hamilton we've seen over the last few years, we may see the same of Toussaint Louverture - a man with just as fascinating a tale, and whose life should be remembered as a brave, bold and publically minded fight for justice and equality.
Author Sudhir Hazareesingh has written a number of history books relating to French figures (or figures associated with France), and as such has clearly found the recipe for a hugely enjoyable history book - blending clear fact with precise prose and a narrative that, due to the true tales many twist, turns, double crosses and betrayals, allows the reader to be fully swept up in this brilliantly recreatd journey.
Whilst Louverture's demise is, ultimately, rather a sad one, his life is such a blazingly brilliant one, it's impossible not to leave this book feeling awe inspired by a man who fought to bring around change almost 250 years ago. From Slave to Statesman - 'Black Spartacus' is a title that suits the brilliant Louverture very well indeed.
I highly recommend this book, and I hope it does very well in the Wolfson History Prize indeed - it's a fascinating portrayal of a hero, a statesman, and a true inspiration.
For those who want to deepen their understanding of the world we live in, for those who want to see change happen and know that this begins with themselves, Inner Alchemy offers a path to inner peace, meaning, purpose, joy and wisdom.
In this practical guide to consciousness, you will discover key concepts relating to energetic work, such as chakras and the seven rays, as well as dimensional and astral realms, and karma, gratitude, and dreams. Over 45 visualisations, meditations and exercises, many beautifully illustrated, will enable you to reap the benefits for your spiritual wellbeing as well as your physical and mental health, and your relationships, contributing to a shift from self-importance to universal connection.
Author Zulma Reyo was born to Puerto Rican parents in 1943 in New York. Humanities at Puerto Rico University and completed a BA in Romance Languages and Literature at New York University, before completing an MA in Education at NYU, which was followed by post-graduate studies in psychology and counselling at San Fernando Valley State College in California. Zulma went on to found the Inner Alchemy School of Consciousness in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. She followed her dream of reaching more people by expanding her activities to Europe, and settled in Spain in the mid-90s. There, she consolidated her line of work and continued to develop methods of meditation and self-knowledge. Zulma now spent almost four decades of my life dedicated to teaching, writing, trainings, workshops, and conferences.
My spirituality and my understanding of it has always been something I've been interested in. Going from a religious childhood to a very atheist adulthood, I've always looked for spirituality where I can find it, and 'Inner Alchemy' provided me with fascinating insight into a school of thought, combined with genuinely helpful exercises and meditations that, if nothing else, certainly provided clearly guided focus.
The illustrations, which, in any other context I would probably scoff at for being too 'new age', are also hugely helpful - providing visual cues to guide me through the meditations and to gain a heightened awareness of my body and my mind.
Now, I must be honest and say that, despite clear instructions, there were certainly various aspects of the book I did not understand - but I'm well aware that this is a world I'm very much new to. However, those aspects of the book I did understand, certainly provided me with guidance and food for thought - and I'll be continuing to practices some of the visualisations and meditations taught here.
You can learn more about Zulma Reyo and Inner Alchemy here: www.zrsoc.com
Michal is a princess, Abigail a wealthy widow, and Bathsheba a soldier's bride, but as women in Ancient Israel their destiny is the same: to obey their fathers, serve their husbands and raise their children.
Marriage to King David seems to offer them an escape, but behind the trappings of power they discover a deeply conflicted man. The legendary hero who slew Goliath, founded Jerusalem and saved Israel is also a vicious despot who murders his rivals, massacres his captives and menaces his harem.
Michael Arditti is a novelist, short story writer, and critic, and has written a number of brilliant novels - my personal favourite being 'Easter', but "Of Men and Angels" and "Jubilate" I found particularly brilliant too.
Arditti always involves religion in some for or another - "Easter" revolves around clergy, "Jubilee" around a trip to Lourdes, and "Of Men and Angels" uses the tale of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' as a focal point around which its various tales are weaved.
That biblical theme continues in "The Anointed" as Arditti retells the story of King David with dazzling effect
I think part of my love for Arditti's work comes from my own relationship with religion - as a chorister in the Church of England for the majority of my childhood and teenage years, I grew up with biblical tales - listening to them during the readings and occasionally reading them myself when a sermon was boring me (which, to be honest, was often), but as I grew older my sexuality and my religion clashed to the extent that I left the church, and now spend a lot of my spare time working for an atheist charity. Regardless of that though - I was brought up with these fascinating, complex tales, and to see Arditti explore them in detail is a real thrill.
King David is an interesting figure. We know that he probably existed, but that's about all we know in terms of facts - and so the tales of him in the bible form the bulk of what we claim to know about him. Most remember him as the handsome young harpist who defeated the giant Goliath with a slingshot - and whilst "David and Goliath" is a phrase that has entered modern parlance, and the young David's triumph is celebrated on stained glass windows across the world, his later life isn't talked about as much. Maybe, just maybe - because he wasn't all that nice?
David had multiple wives - and Arditti focuses his tale on three of them - young Michal, widowed Abigail, and, perhaps the most famous one, soldier's bride Bathsheba. Arditti brings them to life in detail, and explores how they would have been treated in ancient Israel. This is no biblical epic that praises David, and instead is a dark and complex piece that combines the political intrigue of book series like Game of Thrones, with the historical retelling through women's voices that we have seen in recent years from authors like Pat Barker and Natalie Haynes. It's impossible not to be moved by this tale - it's one that has stayed with me, and bought new dimensions to stories I haven't thought about for 20 odd years. Well recommended