Rural History Conference, Leuven 11.-14.09.2017

Talk: Lands of Dominion and Supression - Settlement and Colonization of Northern Haiti

  • Sony Joseph Jean, Universiteit Leiden
  • Till Sonnemann
  • Corinne Hofman, Universiteit Leiden

The arrival of Christopher Columbus on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, and the subsequent events, had a severe impact on the indigenous population. The establishment of the encomienda system gave the Spaniards control over Hispaniola, forcing the indigenous populations to work in gold mines and plantations, and with it transforming the landscape to serve colonial means. After France and Spain divided the island in the 17th century, the French Saint-Domingue, today’s Haiti, housed the most productive sugar plantations in the Caribbean, grounded on the massive exploitation of Africans slaves. As new elements in the landscape, the widely distributed plantations constituted the foundation of the French colonial system.

Archaeological investigations on the distribution of colonial habitats and plantations, colonial buildings, gold mine extraction, and objects show evidence of the colonial footprint of both, Spanish and French, in the archaeological record. By using a multidisciplinary perspective based on archaeological and historical archives, data such as old maps, plans, and chronicles, this presentation seeks to bring new insights on the way how both French and Spanish colonizers acted and transformed the lands differently.