Haiti is a Caribbean country which became the world's first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in a series of wars in the early 19th century. However, decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability and dictatorship have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas. A mostly mountainous country with a tropical climate, Haiti's location, history and culture - epitomised by voodoo - once made it a potential tourist hot spot, but instability and violence have severely dented that prospect.
Natural disaster struck Haiti with full force on 12th January 2010, when the capital Port-au-Prince was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million people lost their homes, 300,000 were injured and around 220,000 died. Much of the capital and its wider area were devastated, prompting a major international aid effort. It is reported to be the worst quake to strike Haiti in 200 years. Recovery is ongoing and expected to take several years.
Toussaint L'Ouverture was the leader of history's largest slave revolt – the Haitian Revolution. This was a dozen years of bloody, brutal fighting, starting in 1791, that transformed the French colony of St Domingue into the independent country of Haiti. The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the world.
In 1793, at war with France, Britain tried to capture St Domingue. The attempt ended in a costly and humiliating failure. By forcing British troops to withdraw in 1798, L'Ouverture showed British officers what determined military opponents enslaved people fighting for their freedom could be. Some of the surviving British officers returned home as abolitionists.
Toussaint became governor of Haiti but he was forced to resign when Napoleon Bonaparte sent in forces to restore French authority. Toussaint was deported to France where he died in prison of pneumonia in 1803.
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To hear first hand accounts from Haiti please visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8518856.stm
Charities are still continuing their aid in Haiti by helping people recover from the 2010 earthquake. Ten months after the earthquake, an outbreak of cholera added to Haiti's woes. To find out more about aid in Haiti, and how you can help, visit:
Thomas Clarkson: A Biography, Ellen Gibson Wilson (William Sessions Ltd., 1996)
Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, Simon Schama (BBC Books, 2006)
Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery, Adam Hochschild (Macmillan, 2005)
The Grand Slave Emporium: Cape Coast Castle and the British Slave Trade, William St Clair (Profile Books, 2006)
Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, Peter Fryer (Pluto Press, 1984)
Slaves Who Freed Haiti, Katherine Scherman (1954)
The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James (1963)
This Guilded African, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Wenda Parkinson (1978)