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The Mercator Projection

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Although the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator's rendering of the earth has been criticized for the way it distorts reality, it was revolutionary in the way it organized space and distance. By imposing a sense of order on the illustrated world by plotting it on an east-west and north-south grid, and having that grid apply everywhere, Mercator made it possible to chart more... Read More »

The New World and the Old: An American at the Opening of the Estates–General (May 1789)

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On 5 May 1789, the deputies of all three orders convened before the King as the Estates–General. In attendance, among other visiting foreign dignitaries, was the American Gouverneur Morris, who recorded his observations in a diary. In the excerpt below, Morris describes first the royal procession through Versailles and then the opening of the Estates–General itself. His description of the King... Read More »

The Ninth of Thermidor

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Having carried the day in the Jacobin Club, Robespierre rose to speak the next day in the Convention, where he attacked members of the Committee of Public Safety and Committee of General Security, until now his closest collaborators, for their extreme use of the Terror. He also hinted that such "terrorists" should be purged from the Convention. Fearing for their own safety, some members of... Read More »

The October Days (1789)

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In the fall of 1789, speeches filled the air in Versailles, and a river of pamphlets and newspapers flooded Paris; however, grain remained in short supply. On 5 October, several hundred women staged a protest against the high price of bread at the City Hall. Just as in July, this traditional form of grievance took on a new meaning against the background of political events—in this case, the... Read More »

The Palmer Family

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Painted by Francesco Renaldi in 1786, The Palmer Family depicts Major William Palmer (seated in the center) surrounded by his two bibis, children, and female servants. Bibis are common-law wives of British men in India. Seated to Palmer's left is Bibi Faiz Bakhsh. She is holding one of Palmer's children, a sleeping baby boy named Hastings. Standing to either side of her is Palmer's... Read More »

The Pennsylvania Gazette: Blame Now Falls (16 May 1792)

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The blame for the Haitian Revolution now falls, at least according to the author of this letter, on the "blood–thirsty aristocracy," which has created dissensions among the French. The author also expresses alarm at the thought of the revolt spreading to other islands in the Caribbean.

The Pennsylvania Gazette: Free blacks and mulattos flee (4 December 1793)

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Along with whites, free blacks and mulattos were also among those who fled the Haitian uprising. Mulattos could own slaves and plantations, and many of them did. Free blacks often manned the militias used to hunt down runaway slaves. Like the white settlers, both groups therefore had reason to flee. But, as this source relates, states such as South Carolina feared the consequences of their... Read More »

The Pennsylvania Gazette: Magnitude of the Insurrection (12 October 1791)

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The magnitude of the Haitian insurrection quickly became clear as alarmed observers related that considerable armies were being raised to fight the rebels. It is noteworthy that such reports even to northern U.S. newspapers expressed little sympathy for the rebels.

The Pennsylvania Gazette: U.S. Vigilance (13 December 1797)

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The Haitian uprising stoked the fears of whites in the United States that a similar uprising would occur among enslaved populations in their country. This article relates how vigilance remained at a high pitch and rumors of rebellion were enough to cause a virtual panic as slaveowners dreaded the possible importation of rebellion from Saint Domingue.

The Pennsylvania Gazette: Unrest Continues (28 September 1796)

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This newspaper details how despite the abolition of slavery in Haiti, turbulence continued in many parts of the colony. The French relied on local generals, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, to try to restore order.

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