22nd August 1791: Start of the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue

22nd August 1791: Start of the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue


Hello, and welcome to HistoryPod. On 22 August 1791 slaves in the French colony
of Saint-Domingue on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola began the Haitian Revolution. Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean
island of Hispaniola during his first transatlantic voyage in 1492 and the island and its population
were soon exploited for their gold. However, by the 17th century Spanish interest
in the island had waned and French settlers soon rose to dominance with the creation of
large sugar plantations. By the outbreak of the French Revolution in
1789 the plantations on Saint-Domingue were producing 60% of the world’s coffee and
40% of all the sugar imported by Britain and France. This economy was built on the slave labour
of approximately 500,000 black Africans who lived in incredibly harsh conditions where
they were regularly subjected to extreme cruelty at the hands of their masters. Tensions between the different groups in the
colony had often led to violence, and there had been several uprisings prior to the Haitian
Revolution that began on 22 August 1791. Influenced in part by the new ideology expressed
in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the slaves of Saint-Domingue rose against the
plantation owners on an unprecedented scale and seized control of a third of the entire
island by 1792. Desperate to end the revolt and regain control
over the island’s wealth the French National Assembly abolished slavery, although Napoleon
later attempted to reintroduce it to the colonies. He failed to do so in Saint-Domingue which
declared independence on 1 January 1804 under the name Haiti, making it the first country
to be established by former slaves.

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