Sample Research Paper on History: The Haitian Revolution

Research PaperHistory
Oct 3, 2021

research paper is one of the most common academic projects assigned to students. While the content of research papers varies depending on the instructions, all research papers should feature information from reliable sources and analysis. This sample research paper on a historical subject discusses the Haitian Revolution.

Like many other countries with a colonial past, Haiti had a long history of struggle and oppression. For hundreds of years, Haiti was ruled by France as part of its colonial empire. And as with other colonial powers, France was responsible for many injustices including slavery, exploitation, and various atrocities. But while the Haitian Revolution is often dwarfed by other revolutions that were taking place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it nevertheless remains a significant event that deserves to be remembered and studied. The revolution was one of a kind, for not only was it one of the earliest revolutions in the New World, but also the first country to be formed by previously enslaved people. 

Prelude to the Revolution

In order to understand the Haitian Revolution, it is necessary to first understand the context within which it erupted. The island which Haiti is now part of was first colonized in the late 15th century shortly after Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. The Spanish named the island Hispaniola and established the colony Santo Domingo on the east coast. The Spanish enslaved the natives and forced them to mine for gold. However, dangerous working conditions and diseases from Africa and Europe brought by the colonizers reduced the indigenous population of the island, and soon enough the colonizers had to import slaves from Africa via the Atlantic Slave Trade (Perry 61).

The French followed the Spanish in forming their own colony in Hispaniola in the mid-17th century. Settlements were established on the west coast of the island and these were eventually consolidated to form the colony of Saint-Domingue (Dubois 45-48). By the 18th century, Saint-Domingue had become one of the largest producers of sugar in the world. Europe’s demand for sugar had turned Saint-Domingue and other Caribbean colonies into agricultural economies. But because the production of sugar was labor-intensive, the French, like the Spanish, relied on the importation of slaves from Africa to maintain the economy (Dubois 71-72). It was this sugar and slave-based economy, and the social structure it engendered, that would eventually sow the seeds of the revolution.

The Cruelty of Slavery

At the dawn of the Haitian Revolution, Saint-Domingue had become a slave state. Almost 90% of the entire population, or 500,000 out of the 550,000 living in Saint-Domingue were African slaves, whereas only around 32,000 were European. A further 24,000 were known as the affranchi—people of mixed European and African descent who were born free or emancipated (“Haitian Revolution”). Despite far outnumbering the slaveholders, the slaves lived in fear due to the oppressive system. The colonizers owned most of the plantations and occupied all positions of power. Meanwhile, the mulattos also wielded considerable power, and many owned slaves as well. Slaves who dared disobey or rebel against their masters were subjected to cruel punishments such as whipping, burning, and other forms of torture. Slaves were also routinely killed by their masters for infractions. Those who managed to escape the plantations hid in the mountains and eventually became known as the Maroons. These escaped slaves would band together and wage battles against colonial forces (Clavin 111).

Apart from the escaped slaves, the affranchi also began to question the colonial system. The majority of the affranchi were looked down upon by the European colonizers because of their mixed race and their slave past. Their ties with African slaves and African culture also gave them a unique identity that was far different from the European culture of the colonizers. The affranchi began rejecting the colonizers and aspired to form an independent country (Clavin 214). One of the reasons behind the affranchi’s rejection of the colonizers was their lack of rights and the discrimination at the hands of the Europeans. France’s revolutionaries had recently toppled its monarchy and set up a republican government in its place. This new government granted affranchi French citizenship, but the Europeans in Saint-Domingue refused to recognize the new law. It was only in 1793 that the European colonizers finally accepted the affranchi’s citizenship after the commissioner Leger-Felicite Sonthonax, who was sent by the revolutionary government to address the matter, abolished slavery in the colony (“Haitian Revolution”). It was in this atmosphere of inequality and discontent that the revolution eventually took root. 

The Man Named Toussaint Louverture

It was in 1791, amidst growing resentment of the colonizers by both the slaves and the affranchi, that a man named Toussaint Louverture rose to become the most prominent leader of the revolution. Louverture was by no means the first person to rebel against the French forces. A man named Vincent Oge, a member of the affranchi, demanded reforms. When that did not succeed, Oge rebelled. But he was eventually apprehended by the French and later on brutally executed (“Haitian Revolution”). Though the affranchi were finally recognized as citizens and there had been episodes of fighting between the different factions, the struggle had been in more or less a stalemate. But Louverture changed all that. An emancipated slave himself, Louverture rose among the ranks of the military. He relied on his leadership to amass a dedicated following. With his excellent command of his followers and his knowledge of the local environment, Louverture captured more and more territories. He was also a shrewd man. He knew that the revolution would not succeed without working with other forces, and so he negotiated with the British to prevent them from siding with the French (Dubois 145). Louverture eventually captured the city of Santo Domingo in 1801 and shortly thereafter declared himself the colony’s governor-general for life (Geggus and Fiering 245).

While Louverture had succeeded in taking over the colony, not much changed at this time. Saint-Domingue still remained a largely agricultural economy that relied on peasant labor. In late 1801, a force led by Gen. Charles Leclerc arrived from France with explicit orders from Napoleon Bonaparte to re-establish the old system. Louverture and Leclerc’s forces fought against each other until a truce was declared in May 1802. But the French reneged and had Louverture sent to France for imprisonment where he died a year later (Koval et al. 68-71). Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Despite Louverture’s death, his subordinates continued the struggle. Two men by the name of Henry Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines led forces against the French. The affranchi soon sided with them, which significantly bolstered their forces. Other factors also helped weaken the French. An outbreak of yellow fever, for one, decimated the French forces in late 1802. The Louisiana Purchase was also completed in May 1803, which meant that France intended to leave its colonies in the Americas behind. It was no longer practical for France to hold on to Saint-Domingue when most of its forces were leaving. Finally, the ongoing Napoleonic Wars meant that France had to focus on the European front rather than in the far-off colony of Saint-Domingue. After a series of decisive battles, Saint-Domingue was declared an independent country on January 1, 1804, and was renamed Haiti (Thomas et al. 71). This was a significant moment in history, for Haiti had become the first country to be founded by former slaves and one of the first countries to become independent in the Americas.

A Free Haiti?

Although Haiti achieved the near-impossible, independence did not do much to change the situation of the Haitians. The economy was in shambles, poverty was rampant, and social and racial divisions were still very much alive. In 1804, Dessalines was given the title Emperor Jacques I by his supporters, but his rule did not last long; he was assassinated in 1806 while trying to suppress a revolt by the mulattos. Henry Christophe soon took over and declared himself King Henry I. To prop up Haiti’s struggling economy, Henry ordered the peasants to resume working in the plantations. Hence, while the slaves were legally free, not much had changed as far as the conditions in which they lived were concerned. He also built a lavish palace and an imposing citadel, which many saw as symbols of excess at a time when many lived in abject poverty. Henry committed suicide in 1820 after a mutiny broke out among his own followers (Koval et al.). In a way, the Haitian Revolution freed Haiti from colonial rule. But it did rid the country of inequality. Most of the freed slaves remained impoverished and powerless, whereas the wealthy mulatto minority became the ruling class (Brown 66). Progress has come in the past two centuries, albeit at a slow pace. Advances are also often fraught with setbacks such as political turmoil and natural disasters.


Even after over two centuries, Haiti remains one of the most disadvantaged nations in the Americas. It continues to struggle against myriad social ills including poverty, lack of education, poor infrastructure, widespread health issues, and corruption. This is not to say, however, that the struggle of Louverture and the revolutionaries had been for naught. Nor does it mean that Haitians have failed to improve their country after gaining independence. Rather, the problems Haiti faces now may be considered as the long-lasting legacy of slavery. For hundreds of years, Haiti was exploited, oppressed, and suppressed by colonizers. The devastating effects of colonization on a people would certainly take generations to resolve. All of these, though, may eventually come to an end one day, and that could only mean that the Haitian Revolution has not been for nothing.

While a research paper is a common assignment, students can expect to write more than just this. There are more academic projects out there, from simple essays and  reaction papers to more advanced works like theses and dissertations . If you are too busy to do all these, you can always count on CustomEssayMeister to do these for you.


Brown, Gordon S. Toussaint's Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution. Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Clavin, Matthew J. Toussaint Louverture and the American Civil War: The Promise and Peril of a Second Haitian Revolution. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2005.

Geggus, David P. and Norman Fiering. The World of the Haitian Revolution. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2009.

“Haitian Revolution.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 26 September 2021.

Koval, Margaret et al. Égalité for All: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution. Alexandria, VA, PBS Home Video, 2009.

Munro, Martin and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Reinterpreting the Haitian Revolution and Its Cultural Aftershocks. Kingston, the University of the West Indies Press, 2006. 

Perry, James. Arrogant Armies: Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them. Edison, Castlebooks, 2005.

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