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In 1791, thirty-five thousand slaves rose in an insurrection, razed a thousand plantations, and took to the hills. Spanish, English, and French troops were soon battling one another for control of the colony.The imperial powers militarized the slaves, training them in the arts of "modern" warfare.Three-quarters of the terrain is mountainous; the highest peak is the Morne de Selle. The mountains are calcareous rather than volcanic and give way to widely varying microclimatic and soil conditions.A tectonic fault line runs through the country, causing occasional and sometimes devastating earthquakes.Until the 1970s, over 80 percent of the population resided in rural areas, and today, over 60 percent continue to live in provincial villages, hamlets, and homesteads scattered across the rural landscape.The capital city is Port-au-Prince, which is five times larger than the next biggest city, Cape Haitian.Haitians refer to all outsiders, even dark-skinned outsiders of African ancestry, as blan ("white").In the neighboring Dominican Republic, despite the presence of over a million Haitian farm workers, servants, and urban laborers, there exists intense prejudice against Haitians.
In 1789, revolution in France sparked dissension in the colony, which had a population of half a million slaves (half of all the slaves in the Caribbean); twenty-eight thousand mulattoes and free blacks, many of whom were wealthy landowners; and thirty-six thousand white planters, artisans, slave drivers, and small landholders.
From the mayhem emerged some of the greatest black military men in history, including Toussaint Louverture.
In 1804, the last European troops were soundly defeated and driven from the island by a coalition of former slaves and mulattoes.
In the mid-1600s, the western third of the island was populated by fortune seekers, castaways, and wayward colonists, predominantly French, who became pirates and buccaneers, hunting wild cattle and pigs unleashed by the earliest European visitors and selling the smoked meat to passing ships.
In the mid-1600s, the French used the buccaneers as mercenaries (freebooters) in an unofficial war against the Spanish.