Throughout the 1700s the island's population grew substantially as numerous
settlements were created on all coasts, including the new capital city of Port-au-Prince.
Sugarcane and coffee became important export crops in the region as the economy
started to slowly grow. By 1780 this region produced over 40% of all sugar consumed
in Europe. However the new capital was destroyed by an earthquake
and tsunami in 1751 and again in 1770.
Throughout the economic boom, slaves were imported in greater and greater numbers
since working conditions were so brutal, few slaves actually had children, but rather
the slave owners just imported new slaves. Due to this, most slaves were born in
Africa and numerous African traditions and customs were brought
to the region and remained over time with each new shipment of slaves. This was
most pronounced in voodoo, which combined with French Catholicism to create an odd
version of Catholicism that continues to exist today in Haiti.
However, there also grew a middle class in Haiti, primarily
formed by children of French fathers and African
mothers. By law these people were free and soon Haiti held the largest population
of free blacks in all of the Caribbean. Despite being free, these people held few
In 1789 revolution broke out in France and the following
year civil war broke out in Saint-Domingue (Haiti). This war
was short lived and many of the initial rebels fled to the Spanish
side of the island to seek refuge. This didn't stop the French though as they
entered the eastern half of the island and finished their civil war in short order.
This however led to a slave revolt in 1791, beginning the Haitian
Revolution. This revolution was begun by slaves, who burned their owners' lands.
This revolt spread quickly and by 1793 the slaves in the region were freed, although
with restricted rights. As the battle ensued the British threatened to attack, but
the rebel slaves stood up to the British and defeated
their army. By 1801 Toussaint Louverture, who was leading the slave revolt, took
over the entire region and even took the entire island of Hispaniola. Despite never
claiming independence from France, the threat of power in
the region led to France sending in troops to end the violence.
The French did little to restore what the slaves had fought
for and in 1803, after selling the Louisiana Territory to the
United States, it was clear France was moving out of the region so the former
slaves regained control of the region and declared independence in 1804 under the
name Haiti. France however didn't recognize this independence
until 1825 when Haiti essentially bought their freedom in order to lift economic
embargoes on the country.
Most of the French remaining on the island in 1804 were murdered,
although most left prior to the formal declaration of independence. This new country
struggled at first, like many new countries, as the people were not unified and
politicians fought for greater and greater power as each seemed to declare himself
emperor or president for life.
In 1822 the eastern half of the island declared independence from
Spain and for a brief period was taken over by Haiti.
However the primarily Spanish people of the east viewed the Haitian occupation as
repressive as Spanish language, customs, and even the Catholic Church were suppressed.
In 1844 this union ended with the eastern half of the island rebelling against Haiti.
The 1840s and 1850s were filled with political turmoil and more self-proclaimed
emperors coming to power, then losing power. This ended in 1869 when the government
was somewhat pacified as the domestic focus shifted to education and infrastructure.
This relative peace and stability continued into the 1900s.
Beginning in 1911 the political chaos returned as did Haitian
debt, leading to the United States occupying
the country until 1934. Under U.S. occupation many roads were built and many public
works were improved, but social justice and freedoms were restricted as the U.S.
essentially forced a new constitution on the people.
In the early 1930s the United States'
stock market crash hurt the Haitian economy and eventually
helped lead to the removal of U.S. troops. This removal, however just led to more
political instability. Dictator after dictator came to power in the late 1930s into
the 1940s. In 1946 a coup took over the country and established general elections
in Haiti, but this brought little progress and dictators continued to rule the country
In 1986 the people overthrew their president, but this democracy only lasted a short
period of time because soon the military was again ruling the country in the early
1990s. This ended in 1994 when the military leaders, under much international pressure
stepped down and general elections again took place in 1995. Since this time politics
have been disjointed and have included a couple coups, but generally nonviolent
with the exception of protests in 2004, which led to United Nations peace keeping
troops to arrive. Additionally, many have accused various governmental regimes of
actually partaking in the drug trade from South America
to the United States.
In January, 2010 a massive earthquake struck Haiti just outside
of Port-au-Prince. This caused between 50,000 and 300,000 deaths. This also destroyed
the economy, hurt the food supply, and spread diseases, causing more deaths and