Discovery of the Hispaniola and Colonial Age
Discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic was first named La Española owing to its similar characteristics of terrain and climate that it shared with the motherland, Spain. The Dominican Republic lies at 18.7357ºN and 70.1627ºW on the eastern end of Hispaniola whose coasts are washed by the Atlantic Ocean to its north and the Caribbean Sea to its south.
Upon arrival, Columbus encountered and subsequently conquered the indigenous population and a fortress founded on Christmas Day called “La Navidad ” became its first settlement. A few years later, in 1496, the current capital, Santo Domingo, was established which is also the oldest European settlement in the western hemisphere.
In the 16th century the island was introduced to African slavery following the near extinction of the indigenous population and thus sugar plantations and a system of forced labor were introduced which ended in 1822.
Santo Domingo was the main base for Spanish operations in the Caribbean but the settlement was lost to the French who ruled modern day Haiti. After years of conflict between the Spanish and French for the control of Hispaniola, the feud was quelled in 1697 under the treaty of Ryswick which put the western region under French rule and the eastern region under Spanish rule.
Despite this understanding, the Dominican Republic withstood several attacks from the Haitians even after they were granted their independence from France in 1804.
In 1844, The Dominican Republic was finally granted their independence and was headed by dictator President Pedro Santana who was deposed after making the Dominican Republic a province of Spain in 1862. The following year the people revolted in a war which was dubbed the “War of Restoration”. The Spanish presence withdrew in 1867 and the island fell into a period of political and economic instability and turmoil followed by an intervention by the United States in 1916 and a series of presidents, dictatorships, assassinations, coups, military rule, rigged elections and even a provisional government. Human/Social development was also retarded owing to the aforementioned turmoil and many citizens were disadvantaged as a result.
In the past few years, the economy has been slowly recovering and the island has been under Democratic rule since 1966. Additionally, the Dominican Republic still participates in the sugar, tobacco and coffee industry and like many Caribbean territories has ventured into the tourism industry and telecommunications.