The Black Auxiliary Troops of King Carlos IV: African Diaspora in the Spanish Atlantic World, 1791-1818
Erickson, Miriam Rebekah Martin
This dissertation project examines the impact of one particular insurgent slave group, the Black Auxiliary Troops of King Carlos IV, during the early years of the Haitian revolution. Led by free black generals Jean-François Papillon and Georges Biassou, members of this group accepted aid from Spain in order to continue their fight against the French colonists on Saint Domingue. A series of political and military circumstances led to their exile, and they ended up in various ports in Spanish America. These Black Auxiliaries managed to navigate the spaces in-between, and tracing their history allows us to better understand the ways in which subaltern groups can use political and military instability to advance their position. I argue that the Auxiliaries’ experience in the Saint Domingue rebellion, negotiating with the French and Spanish officials, turned them into diplomats, well versed in the legal and civil structures of the Spanish empire. I analyze the Auxiliaries’ experience in trying to maintain a cohesive unit while in exile by deploying their military service to Spain. In particular I argue that the Auxiliaries exercised a degree of autonomy and negotiating power over their own lives and played an active role in fixing contested imperial boundaries.