Patrick-William Travens


Advisor: Suzanne Desan



I am a scholar of the French Revolution and the Atlantic world in the Age of Revolutions, with a focus on how the Haitian Revolution and revolutions in the Windward Islands impacted political and social conflict in the French metropole. I investigate how revolutionaries from various social, racial, and geographic backgrounds intervened in debates about colonial issues and integrated questions about race, free trade, and Caribbean counter-revolution into their broader understanding of the French Revolution and its global importance. My research challenges older, diffusionist narratives of the French Revolution’s interactions with the Atlantic world, particularly Haiti. My research also interrogates the ways in which popular and provincial politics in France intersected with colonial issues, challenging the traditional focus on imperial elites who were usually based in Paris.

In my master’s thesis, I analyze the political career of Pierre Chaumette, a leading figure in revolutionary Paris during the Terror who led the Paris municipality in supporting the abolition of slavery throughout the French colonial empire in February 1794. I track Chaumette’s unorthodox political trajectory throughout the Revolution alongside his abolitionist activism to illustrate how political actors from non-elite backgrounds also intervened in colonial politics and sought to transform the French colonial empire as a crucial element of national regeneration.

My dissertation, Imperial Jacobins : Colonialism, Revolution, and Local Politics in France’s Atlantic Ports, analyzes how revolutionaries in France’s leading Atlantic port cities intervened in colonial issues from the beginning of the Revolution to the end of the Thermidorian Convention (1789-1795). I show how port-city revolutionaries, acting through local institutions including municipal councils, local Jacobin Clubs, and National Guard units, contested issues ranging from the abolition of slavery to the treatment of colonial refugees. By studying these revolutionaries, I not only seek to show how non-elite actors shaped colonial debates and policies, but also how the complex ways that port-city revolutionaries situated colonial politics within their experience of becoming politicized and participating in democratic politics.


M.A.,  University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020
B.A.,  Rutgers University New Brunswick, 2017


  • European History

MA Title

  • “Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette: Abolitionist Activism and Colonialist Politics in Revolutionary Paris.”

Working Dissertation Title

  • ” Imperial Jacobins : Colonialism, Revolution, and Local Politics in France’s Atlantic Ports”

Selected Awards

  • Bourse Marandon – Société des Professeurs Français et Francophones d’Amérique, 2021
  • Kate Everest Levi Second-Year Paper Prize for best Master’s thesis – UW-Madison History Department, 2020
  • Foreign Language Area Studies Grant for one summer and one academic year of Portuguese language instruction – UW-Madison Graduate School, 2019 ; 2020

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for French Historical Studies (SFHS)
  • Western Society for French History (WSFH)
  • French Colonial Historical Society (FCHS)
  • American Historical Association (AHA)

Courses Taught as TA

  • History 119: Europe 1400 to 1800
  • History of Science 201: The Origins of Scientific Thought
  • History 201: Historian’s Craft – Pirates and Renegades in the Early Modern Mediterranean
  • History 201: Historian’s Craft – The French Revolution
  • Guest lecture : “Victor Hugues : Race, Terror, and Liberty in the Revolutionary Atlantic (1789-1805),” given Dec. 5, 2022