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Posted: July 24th, 2019

The Haitian Revolution and its Impact on Modern World Order

The Haitian Revolution and its Impact on Modern World Order

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was a key turning point in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions. It was the most successful rebellion by enslaved people in world history, and it led to the creation of the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. It also challenged the racial hierarchy and colonial system that dominated the Americas, and influenced the movements for abolition, independence, and human rights in the region and beyond.

Causes of the Revolution

The Haitian Revolution was sparked by a complex web of political, economic, social, and cultural factors. Some of the main causes were:

– The oppressive conditions of slavery and plantation life in Saint-Domingue, the French colony that occupied the western part of Hispaniola. The colony was home to about 500,000 enslaved Africans, who outnumbered the white colonists and the free people of color (affranchis) by a ratio of ten to one. The enslaved people suffered brutal exploitation, violence, and disease, and had little hope of freedom or social mobility.
– The influence of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, which inspired the colonists and the affranchis to demand more rights and representation from France. The French Revolution also raised the expectations of the enslaved people, who saw an opportunity to claim their own liberty and equality. The slogan of the revolution, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, resonated with the oppressed groups in Saint-Domingue, who also adopted the tricolor flag as a symbol of their struggle.
– The geopolitical rivalries and conflicts among France, Britain, Spain, and the United States, which affected the trade, security, and diplomacy of Saint-Domingue. The colony was one of the most profitable in the world, producing sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and other commodities for the European markets. It also had a strategic location in the Caribbean Sea, near important shipping routes and naval bases. The colonial powers competed for control and influence over Saint-Domingue, while the United States sought to protect its commercial interests and avoid foreign intervention.
– The internal divisions and conflicts among the different social groups in Saint-Domingue, which complicated the alliances and coalitions that emerged during the revolution. The white colonists were divided into two factions: the grands blancs (big whites), who were wealthy planters and merchants; and the petits blancs (small whites), who were poor artisans and laborers. The affranchis were also divided by class, color, and origin: some were mulattoes (mixed-race), others were blacks; some were born free, others were manumitted (freed by their masters); some were rich and educated, others were poor and illiterate. The enslaved people were diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, and language: some were born in Africa, others in Saint-Domingue; some practiced African religions, others Catholicism; some spoke Creole, others various African languages.

Phases of the Revolution

The Haitian Revolution can be divided into four phases:

– The first phase (1791-1793) began with a massive slave uprising in August 1791, led by a vodou priest named Boukman. The rebels burned plantations, killed colonists, and fought against the French troops. They also formed a provisional government under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave who became a skilled general and diplomat. Toussaint allied with Spain, which controlled the eastern part of Hispaniola, against France.
– The second phase (1793-1798) saw a radical change in the course of the revolution, as France abolished slavery in its colonies in February 1794. This decision was influenced by both humanitarian and pragmatic motives: on one hand,

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