Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


David Dillard

Michael Gubser

Kevin Hardwick


In 1699, the French established the colony of Saint Domingue following their acquisition of the western third of the island of Hispaniola from the Spanish Empire. The colony relied on a significant number of enslaved Africans to work on sugar cane plantations as the primary workforce. This led to a plantation-based economy, a large number of enslaved Africans, and the production of sugar cane, which quickly made Saint Domingue the wealthiest colony in the New World. However, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was a pivotal document of the French Revolution, had a significant impact on the colony and the complex racial hierarchy that upheld this colony for over a century. While the document promised unalienable rights to all French citizens, some white planters claimed it only supported them, which led to the Haitian Revolution. At the end of the conflict, the formerly enslaved established a free black republic in their image, but the new nation faced several economic and political challenges. Consequently, it became the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This thesis aims to examine the transition of Saint Domingue from a French colony to a struggling nation in modern times.

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