Haiti as the “nightmare republic”

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Alex von Tunzelmann, a young Oxford-educated historian and author of Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, traveled to Haiti recently and has written a lengthy article for the London Times that offers an overview of Haiti’s history and cogent arguments explaining why Haiti has become, in Graham Greene’s world, a “nightmare republic.” Two centuries ago, von Tunzelmann writes, “the political economist Robert Malthus postulated that a society in which the population grew too fast could reach a point where people simply could not be fed, leading to a total collapse. Over the past five years, Haiti has not only met but exceeded the conditions for a Malthusian catastrophe. The only things keeping the country from absolute disaster are imported food and charity. With a global economic crisis afoot, the question is how long that can be sustained.”  

The article moves quickly through Haitian history and is not a substitute for longer summaries of the island’s historical trajectory, but it could serve as a brief introduction to the problems facing Haiti for anyone seeking an overview to encourage class discussion.

The article can be found at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6281614.ece

The photograph above by Alice Smeets is one of three that accompanied the article.

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