Hayti or St. Domingo/Saint-Domingue

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The issue of naming in Haiti and the recognition or non-recognition of that name is something that I’ve been thinking about for a few years now. David Geggus wrote a great chapter called “The Naming of Haiti” in his book Haitian Revolutionary Studies. While undertaking my dissertation research, I was struck by the continued use of “Saint-Domingue” or “St. Domingo” by foreigners when they were referring to the territory that Jean-Jacques Dessalines and his generals had renamed “Hayti.” I wrote a short piece in the French journal Riveneuve Continents called “Identif[ying] the Island in its new situation”: The struggle for Hayti to overcome St. Domingo.” In this article I argued “Not only did the name ‘Hayti’ represent a break from France and a return to a time before colonialism, but the people assumed the roles of the rightful residents of the island. Natives; the land was theirs.” While I was a fellow at the John Carter Brown Library in 2013, I gave a talk and used map titles to illustrate the point that I was making about the uncertainty about Haiti’s status after 1804 and the resistance to fully recognize Haiti’s independence. The map titles that I studied suggest that international mapmakers were slow to adopt “Haiti” or “Hayti” as the name for the territory and only began to do so around the time that France officially recognized Haitian independence (1825). Even then, however, many maps continued to use the colonial name in addition to the new name.

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