Haiti’s Tragic History
By ADAM HOCHSCHILD
Published: December 29, 2011
For the better part of two centuries, outsiders have been offering explanations that range from racist to learned-sounding — the supposed inferiority of blacks, the heritage of slavery, overpopulation — for why Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. None of these work: nearby Barbados has a greater population density, and about 90 percent of its people are descended from slaves, yet it outranks all but two nations in Latin America on the United Nations Human Development Index. Neither Barbados nor any other country, however, had so traumatic and crippling a birth as Haiti.
As a French possession, it was once the most lucrative colony on earth, producing nearly one-third of the world’s sugar and...