In the 16th century, the island of Hispaniola
was colonized by Spaniards. At the end of the 17th
century, they surrendered the western half of the island
to France, which, with the help of African slaves, built
up a profitable plantation economy. Inspired by the
French Revolution, however, the slaves revolted, drove
the French off, and founded independent Haiti in 1804.
After a troubled century, the country was occupied by
the United States in the early 1900s.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Haiti, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The Caribbean island world was populated for
centuries by the time Europeans arrived, by people
believed to have immigrated from both North and South
America. Sailor Christofer Columbus arrived in 1492 to
the island that holds today's Haiti and the Dominican
Republic. Columbus, sent by the Spanish crown, called
the island of Hispaniola. He had a temporary settlement
built on the north coast, thus laying the foundation for
the Spanish colonization of the island.
The indigenous people, the Arab-speaking Taino
people, had several names on their island. The most
common was Ayti or Hayti which means "mountainous". The
meeting with the Europeans became fatal for Taino.
During the 16th century almost the entire population was
wiped out in fighting with the Spaniards, through forced
labor and the diseases brought by the colonizers. In
order to obtain labor for the island's plantations, the
Spaniards began to buy slaves from Africa.
The Spanish colonizers devoted themselves primarily
to the eastern part of the island, which today
constitutes the Dominican Republic. The western part was
left virtually uninhabited. The years around 1630,
French and English pirates began to take possession of
the west coast and the island of La Tortue in the
northwest. A French colony grew and in 1697 Spain
officially surrendered the western part of Hispaniola to
The plantations flourished and Saint-Domingue, which
the French called their part of the island, soon became
one of France's richest colonies. Sugar, coffee and
cotton were shipped to Europe, while imports consisted
of constant transport of new slaves.
Despite high death rates, the black population
increased rapidly and a middle class of released blacks,
or people of mixed origin, emerged. They had the right
to own real estate and slaves but were denied political
rights and were subordinate to the whites. In the latter
part of the 18th century, the ideas of freedom, equality
and fraternity brought hope in the colonies of the
French Revolution. When the French refused to give the
slaves in Saint-Domingue freedom and two leaders of
mixed origin were executed in 1791, a twelve-year
uprising broke out with Toussaint L'Ouverture as one of
the leaders. Most of the colony's approximately half a
million slaves participated in the uprising, which
forced France to abolish slavery in all its colonies in
1794. French Emperor Napoleon failed to regain control
of Saint-Domingue, partly because his soldiers suffered
from malaria and yellow fever, but Toussaint was
arrested and deported to France. The revolution went on
and the world's first free black state - Haiti - was
proclaimed in 1804. Many of the 30,000 white colonists
were killed during the liberation struggle and thousands
fled to Cuba.
Free Haiti's first leader was Jean-Jacques Dessalines,
one of the leaders of the slave rebellion. Dessalines
exclaimed to the emperor. Henri Christophe and Alexandre
Pétion, two of the other leading freedom fighters,
fought Dessalines, which was assassinated in 1806. Haiti
was divided into two republics. In the north Christophe
ruled and in the south Pétion ruled. In 1820, the two
republics were united under President Jean-Pierre Boyer.
Under his rule, the Spanish part of Hispaniola was
invaded in 1822, which remained under Haitian domination
until 1843, when Boyer was hunted in exile by
Haiti was now characterized by political and economic
chaos for a long period. In 1825, under military threat,
France had demanded enormous damages for lost property
and for the killed and ousted colonists. The
compensation, equivalent to SEK billion in today's
monetary value, hampered the country's economic
development for a long time and was not finalized until
During the remainder of the 19th century, foreign
economic influence increased and a long line of
presidents succeeded by armed coups. Concerns about a
growing European, especially German, influence in the
region prompted the United States to invade Haiti in
1915. The United States passed a constitution that gave
foreigners the right to buy land. A couple of thousand
opponents were killed during a two-year uprising.
Political power left the United States on the small
elite of mixed European and African origin, giving rise
to a nationalist and socialist movement among blacks.
The occupation ended in 1934, but the elite retained
control until 1946, when a black Haitian won the
presidential election and power was gradually taken over
by the so-called "guard". It was a semi-military force
dominated by blacks, founded during the US occupation to
maintain order, but which has become more and more
involved in politics. In the 1950s, the guard was
transformed into the country's army.
Protests against election results
Election authority announces results: party RDNP's candidate Mirlande Manigat
received 31.4 percent, Inite's candidate Jude Célestin 22.5 percent and musician
Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly 21.8 percent. The conclusion is that a second
round will be held in January between Manigat and Celestin. But violent protests
erupt among Martelly's supporters, and independent foreign observers believe
Martelly won over Celestin. More than half of the presidential candidates
request that the result be annulled. Eventually, the electoral council decides
that the votes should be recalculated.
Presidential and parliamentary elections despite unrest
19 candidates participate in the presidential election; Twelve of them are
already demanding re-election on Election Day and claim that the ruling party
Inite is cheating. The turnout is only 23 percent. Many voters lost their voting
cards in the earthquake and have been unable to arrange any new ones.
Violent protests against cholera outbreaks
Great anger is directed at UN soldiers especially from Nepal. Much points to
the fact that the infection reached Haiti via the Nepalese soldiers. Haiti has
otherwise not had any cases of diarrheal disease in modern times.
Reconstruction Commission is set up
The Commission will be led by Prime Minister Bellerive and UN envoy Bill
Assistance is promised for reconstruction
At a donor conference at the UN headquarters in New York, tens of billions of
dollars are promised for reconstruction, of which just over half will be paid
out in 2010–2011.
The parliamentary elections are postponed
The election that would have been held at the end of the month is postponed
indefinitely due to the chaotic situation following the earthquake. President
Préval's mandate is extended for the same reason, from February to May 2011.
Severe earthquake shakes Haiti
The worst earthquake in 200 years has hit Haiti and has devastated large
parts of the capital. The presidential palace collapses, as do the UN forces
headquarters where many UN employees perish. The United States takes control of
the airport. Tens of thousands of people perish.