The region was originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people. Columbus discovered the island on 5 December 1492 during his first voyage across the Atlantic. When Columbus initially landed in Haiti, he had thought he had found India. On Christmas Day 1492, Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, ran aground north of what is now Limonade. As a consequence, Columbus ordered his men to salvage what they could from the ship, and he created the first European settlement in the Americas, naming it La Navidad after the day the ship was destroyed. The island was named La Española and claimed by Spain, which ruled until the early 17th century. Competing claims and settlements by the French led to the western portion of the island being ceded to France, which named it Saint-Domingue. Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines restored the country its Indian name, Haiti
In the midst of the French Revolution (1789–1799), slaves and free people of colour revolted in the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), culminating in the abolition of slavery and the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte's army at the Battle of Vertières. Afterward the sovereign nation of Haiti was established on 1 January 1804 – the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated three European superpowers (France, Spain, and the UK), and the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt.
The Citadelle Laferrière in Haiti is the largest fortress in the Americas. Henri Christophe – former slave and first king of Haiti, Henri I – built it to withstand a possible foreign attack.
The name Haiti comes from the indigenous Taíno language which was the native name given to the entire island of Hispaniola to mean, "land of high mountains." Haiti is a land of natural beauty and mineral wealth. French lovingly called it 'La Perle des Antilles' (meaning "Pearl of the Antilles") It was considered the richest colony owned by any of the European powers at the time
Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean, after Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It has the second longest coastline in the Caribbean after Cuba (1,771 km or 1,100 mi) Haiti occupied the Dominican Republic for 22 years from 1822 to 1844, holding the entire island of Hispaniola under its jurisdiction.