L’Occupation: The United States Military Occupation of Haiti in Haitian and American Political Histories

Introduction

Almost one hundred years ago, the United States of America occupied Haiti. Citing anarchy and the need to protect foreign lives, the United States installed a military occupation on Haitian soil for nineteen years. This occupation was part of long-term changes in U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. With the end of the Civil War in 1865 — and especially following the Spanish-American War of 1898 — the U.S. came to take up a much more dominant role in the domestic affairs of its Southern neighbours and in the Pacific. Among other policies, it utilised the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine and the Dollar Diplomacy to guide its new foreign agenda.

While the brutal death of Haitian president Guillaume Sam in July 1915 provided the United States with a pretext to occupy Haiti, the real motives for the intervention were strategic and economic in nature. On the one hand, the U.S. feared German presence in Haiti, on the other hand; it hoped that with the establishment of stable (although not necessarily democratic) governments, it could eventually encourage American private investment in the country.

The Occupation succeeded in the first respect in that German presence was inconsequential by the time of the U.S. entry into the Great War. In its second respect, the triumph was much less evident and the implementation of American business enterprises largely occurred at the expense of Haitians who were recruited for forced labour (corvée) and evicted from their lands (especially in the countryside).

Taking much inspiration from the blogger at ‘Historicity Was Already Taken,’ in this current series, we will try to explore the U.S. Military Occupation of Haiti inside a framework that takes into consideration both the political histories of Haiti and that of the United States.

Please note however that we can only go so far with a few blog posts. If the Occupation of Haiti interests you, we encourage you to browse our reading suggestions for this period. While we decided to focus on some specific themes, it is not our intention to obscure or silence any factors related to the Occupation. Again, your best interest lies in reading this series in conversation with other sources on the Occupation.

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