Nicolas Ponce, Plan de la Ville du Cap François et de ses Environs Dans l'Isle St. Domingue. Map. Paris: Chez le Sr. Phelipeau, 1786. From John Carter Brown Library, JCB Map Collection.

Dr. Carrie Glenn, an assistant professor of history at Niagara University, is working on a digital humanities mapping project of Cap Français, a port city on the north coast of Haiti. Drawing on three historical cadastres, she and French scholar Camille Cordier will create databases using geo-referenced data and GIS software showing how the city transformed both demographically and economically during the 18th century. They also hope to launch a bilingual preliminary website on the project, called “In the Streets of Le Cap” in the coming weeks.

“I was initially drawn to studying Cap Français because it was an important site of international commerce in the late 18th century, and I wanted to shed light onto its connections with the early United States,” Dr. Glenn explained. “Cap Français was also a key port in the transatlantic slave trade. The Haitian Revolution of 1791, which constitutes the only successful slave revolution in history, spurred dramatic transformations in the colony, including the abolition of slavery and eventual independence of Haiti. Studying the shifting contours of Cap Français and transformations to the city's commerce allows us to explore the effects of revolution and abolition on individuals and families.”

At the core of this project are rich nominative cadastre records for Le Cap, dating from 1776, 1787, and 1803, held at the French national archives in Aix-en-Provence. Using QGIS software, Dr. Glenn and Cordier will plot this data for the first time onto what will be a geo-referenced historical map of Le Cap. These cadastre records, when read alongside one another, provide a unique glimpse into the city’s sociocultural milieu and the dramatic events that unfolded in the multiracial, polyglot, and commercially dynamic port city.

Once the project is fully launched, researchers will have direct access to the databases, allowing them to retrace the trajectories of individuals and families, observe the social and racial configuration of the urban landscape, and analyze the overall dynamics of the city on a larger scale. This information could be used to pursue new avenues for research, as well, including the real estate heritage of women or free people of color in the town; the spatiality of racial segregation; the polarization of places of trade; and the impact of the Haitian Revolution and fires on the urban, social, and economic landscape of the town. It will also offer the public a unique view on colonial urban slavery and post-slavery society by focusing on one of the Atlantic World’s key commercial centers.

Dr. Glenn earned her B.A. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles, her M.A. in history from California State University, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. She is also working on a book project that explores the short- and long-term, local and far-reaching reverberations of the Haitian Revolution from the perspective of Marie Rose Poumaroux (a marchande de couleur) and Elizabeth Beauveau (a white itinerant American), and was recently selected to participate in the second cohort of the Bright Institute at Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., a three-year program that brings together professors of American history (before 1848) who work at liberal arts colleges to discuss cutting-edge scholarship and brainstorm ways to teach that new scholarship in the classroom.

Her research has received support from the Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the John Carter Brown Library, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Delaware.


Your Thoughts