Bob Corbett, The History of Haiti

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Publisher's note: Bob Corbett offered this on-line version of his Haitian history course in the Summer of 1995. Some marginal material has been removed or placed in other contexts. The series of lectures presented here remains incomplete.

This is a course in Haitian history. However, it has an overall thesis which is not in itself historical. I maintain that in order to understand Haiti today, her politics, economics, culture, daily lifeform—anthing, you MUST understand her in her history and genesis. Thus I am not doing the history merely as an historical curiosity, but in order to understand Haiti today.

This is a first beginning in Haitian history. I will not assume you know much if anything, and the first lecture will be a very basic one of geography and some demographics, current situation. Those of you who are more experienced, please remember that this is a basic first course in Haitian history and I urge you to be especially patient with those who don't know Haiti well. Hey, I've been teaching this course for several years and I've had students in the past who don't know Haiti from Tahiti, and couldn't place them geographicaly vis-a-vis the U.S. or one another.

We will begin with BASICS.

My plan is to run the course 8 calendar weeks, and hope to get all the material done in that time frame. But, no matter what, we will not finish until we cover in some fashion, 21 topics. (Actually 22, since I snuck in on A and B topic #.)

Obviously if we're doing this in 8 weeks, plus some introductory materials, which we are, that's about 3 topics. Some of these topics will be very very very superficially treated. Sorry, can't help that. But, OUTSIDE class, anyone who wants to take any of these topics and work with me and others to do more—well, so much the better. The topics could keep us going for the next 10 years and then some.


Summer, 1995
Bob Corbett, instructor
Course taught exclusively on-line

This course will attempt to overview Haitian history from the pre-Columbian days until the current time. The central thesis of the course is this:


The sections we will cover in this course will be:

A brief Introduction

  1. Pre-Columbian period: before 1492
  2. Spanish period: 1492–1697
  3. French colonial period: 1697–1791
  4. The Haitian Revolution: 1791–1803
  5. Independence and early post-revolutionary period: 1804-1818
  6. Formation of economic and social life and the struggle for international recognition 1818-1843
  7. Formation of the governmental patterns 1843-1915
  8. The First U.S. Occupation 1915-1934
  9. The interim post-occupation period 1934-1957
  10. A. The Duvaliers 1957-1986
    B. Rise of the popular movement 1974-1986
  11. From the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier to Aristide's candidacy. Feb. 7, 1986 to Oct. 1990
  12. The Aristide presidency: Dec. 16, 1990 - Sept 30, 1991.
  13. The coup d'etat and de facto government. Sept. 30, 1991 - Oct. 1994
  14. Aristide's reinstatement and the second U.S. Occupation. Oct. 1994 to present


  1. Haitian Voodoo
  2. The Art Renaissance in Haiti, 1953 - present
  3. Literature in Haiti
  4. The structure of daily life in Haiti
  5. Deforestation
  6. The misery of the masses
  7. Foreign aid, development work and missionaries.

Expectations I will have of the students

  1. Read all materials I send out under the H# listing.
  2. Give written evidence of understanding the gist of all 21 topics.
  3. Along the way do 2 longer papers on some approved topic, something in the 5,000–10,000 byte range.
  4. Read one book outside the class. For every student I recommend that that book be: WRITTEN IN BLOOD by Robert and Nancy Heinl.

    However, if your local library doesn’t have this book (written in the 1970s, but long since out-of-print), then you'll have to pick another, and do so with my approval.

    I do accept these books:
    Black Democracy by H.P. Davis
    Haiti: Her History and Detractors by J.N. Leger
    Haiti: Color and Class Politics by Lyonel Paquin

    In addition, a totally non-required book, but one I would recommend (not as the mandatory book, but as an extra book) would be THE NEGLECTED AND THE ABUSED: A PHYSICIAN'S YEAR IN HAITI by Joe Bentivegna. (I'll send out ordering information on this one, which you could get by mail.)

    This is a powerful book to give one some of the emotive tone of the poverty, misery and powerlessness of Haitian people today.

  5. When you do write things and I send them out to this group, or post them on alt.current-events.haiti, then I do expect the student to reply to comments and objections (within reason—if you draw many replies, I'll deal with that with you.)

In the main that's it, but I will have a few other small items here and there. There are no formal tests. I don't want to do that here.

The last thing I want this to be is my normal classroom course just don't on-line. I am hoping that the presence of a sizeable group of observers or group 3 folks will enrich the whole course.

Bob Corbett