Hispaniola was first home to Taino tribes, who suffered abuse, disease, and slavery after first contact with the Spanish ultimately reducing their population to an estimated 500 people by 1548.

With native populations waning, colonies looked for other sources of manual labor to help supply Europe's growing demand for goods. They turned to Africa.

In French-controlled Saint-Domingue, conditions were punishing and birth rates for slaves were lower than death rates. Rather than improve conditions, the colony simply increased the rate at which it imported slaves.

By the 18th century, Saint-Domingue had become home to the largest slave society, with the most brutal conditions in the world.

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