|History of Haiti
|Pre-Columbian Haiti (before 1492)
|Captaincy General of Santo Domingo (1492–1625)
|First Empire of Haiti (1804–1806)
|North Haiti (1806–1820)
|South Haiti (1806–1820)
|Republic of Haiti (1820–1849)
|Second Empire of Haiti (1849–1859)
|Republic of Haiti (1859–1957)
|Duvalier dynasty (1957–1986)
|Anti-Duvalier protest movement
|Republic of Haiti (1986–present)
The recorded history of Haiti began in 1492, when the European captain and explorer Christopher Columbus landed on a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean. The western portion of the island of Hispaniola, where Haiti is situated, was inhabited by the Taíno and Arawakan people, who called their island Ayiti. The island was promptly claimed for the Spanish Crown, where it was named La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), later Latinized to Hispaniola. By the early 17th century, the French had built a settlement on the west of Hispaniola and called it Saint-Domingue. Prior to the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), the economy of Saint-Domingue gradually expanded, with sugar and, later, coffee becoming important export crops. After the war which had disrupted maritime commerce, the colony underwent rapid expansion. In 1767, it exported indigo, cotton and 72 million pounds of raw sugar. By the end of the century, the colony encompassed a third of the entire Atlantic slave trade.
In 1791, slaves staged a revolt which led to the Haitian Revolution. André Rigaud, leader of the revolution, forced the French to withdraw. When Toussaint Louverture declared independence in 1802, Napoleon sent an invasion force to coerce the Haitians. After the death of Toussaint while in imprisonment by the French, the Generals Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, and Alexandre Pétion laid heavy battle against Charles Leclerc, the leader of the French invasion. As the tide of the war turned in favor of the Haitians, Napoleon abandoned the invasion, which led to Dessalines declaring the independence of Haiti in 1804. Dessalines orchestrated a massacre of the remaining French population in Haiti, resulting in over 5,000 deaths. Men, women, and children were killed as revenge for Napoleon's invasion. Whites were hanged from gallows along the coast, signaling to passing ships that Haiti had purged itself of Europeans.
Soon after independence, Haiti was proclaimed an empire under Dessalines. When Dessalines was overthrown in a coup d'état, Haiti then divided off into two regions, controlled by rival regimes, with Christophe ruling the semi-feudal northern State of Haiti and Pétion ruling the more tolerant southern Republic of Haiti. Jean-Pierre Boyer succeeded Pétion in 1811; he consolidated power in the west and invaded Santo Domingo, thereby unifying Hispaniola. However, the nation struggled economically due to indemnity payments beginning in 1825. In 1843, Haiti descended into chaos after a revolt which overthrew Boyer; the nation was then run by short-lived emperors and generals. A more workable constitution was introduced under Michel Domingue in 1874, leading to a long period of democratic peace and development for Haiti.
Haiti was occupied by the United States from 1915 to 1934. After the occupation, President Sténio Vincent forced through a new constitution that allowed for sweeping powers for the executive branch. The first civilian president, Dumarsais Estimé, ruled for five years until 1950. After a brief period of instability, François Duvalier rose to prominence and painted himself as the legitimate heir to Estimé. His regime is regarded as one of the most repressive and corrupt of modern times; his son, Jean-Claude, saw Haiti's economic and political condition continue to decline, although some of the more fearsome elements of his father's regime were abolished. The period after Duvalier was dominated by the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide until his downfall in the controversial 2004 coup d'état. A major 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the country in 2010 and caused widespread devastation.