Making Investor States: Haitian Foreign Debt and Neo-colonial Economic Governance in Nineteenth-century France

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Investment in formal and informal empire is a significant factor in the construction of durable forms of imperial economic governance, and its social and cultural work is an important and understudied aspect of the European imperial experience. This chapter examines the petitioning and negotiating work of Haiti’s French creditors in the nineteenth century to demonstrate how investors in the former colony engaged the French government in claims for official support and how their lobbying and mobilization enjoined the state to work out the nature of its goals and responsibility in postcolonial economic relations. In practical terms, the Haitian loan helped institutionalize legal and political principles, as well as institutions like bondholder associations, that were foundational to France’s economic imperialism throughout the nineteenth century. More broadly, through decades of letter-writing, public meetings, pamphlet and article publications, Haiti’s creditors engaged themselves and the French public in processes of imagining and argumentation about the value of that imperialism. The amounts of money at stake were small from the French perspective. However, by placing these monetary exchanges in the context of the intense legal, political, and emotional mobilization they generated, we can revive the complexity of economic decolonization and retrieve their significant impact on the elaboration of a habitus of imperial extraction.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImperial Inequalities: The Politics of Economic Governance across European Empires
EditorsGurminder Bhambra, Julia McClure
PublisherManchester University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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