At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the area of today's Port-au-Prince was more town than city. The mountains surrounding the town prevented the population from spreading through the region. Living conditions were particularly difficult and the expansion of slavery affected the nature and development of the city.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the town was characterized by a brutal slavery system. During the eighteenth century, African slaves outnumbered the European population by a large margin and the conditions on the plantations were particularly harsh. The plantations were close to each other and the density of the population was far greater than that of other colonial towns on the island of Saint-Domingue. Apart from some large plantations, the buildings were remote and rudimentary, highlighting the omnipresence of slaves in the town and the importance of slavery in the region.