Professor’s New Book Examines Aftermath of Haitian Revolution

Julia Gaffield, assistant professor of history, attempts to deepen our understanding of the period between Haiti’s revolution and current-day Haiti in her book, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World.

“I wanted to present a much more nuanced understanding of what Haiti is,” said Gaffield. “Most of the time, news outlets talk about Haiti in the context of a run-on sentence. It goes from the Haitian revolution, that’s very triumphant and it’s a moment where slaves rebelled and they won, and then it transitions very quickly to the ‘poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.’ It becomes a very flat history.”

It is often believed that Haiti was isolated from the outside world after declaring its independence primarily because foreign powers were heavily invested in colonialism and slavery. Gaffield’s research, however, proves the opposite.

In Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World, Gaffield shows that immediately following Haiti’s revolution, foreign leaders were in fact open to negotiating with Haitian leaders, especially in the context of warfare and economic gain.

“My research shows that Haiti was not doomed from day one to become the ‘poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,’” Gaffield said.

She added, “My goal is, was and will always be to understand Haiti as being more than just a poor country.”

Gaffield’s interest in the history of Haiti was sparked while taking an undergraduate course at the University of Toronto. From that initial introduction, she would embark upon years of studying and researching Haitian history and culture in eight different countries.

In fact, during one of her research trips, she found the only government-issued copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence at The National Archives of the United Kingdom.

“It’s exciting to learn about this history and why it has been cast aside for so long,” she said. “This book is a part of a movement that looks at how connected different countries are. There’s a much more complicated story in there that is not just Haiti’s story but it’s the story of every country in the Atlantic world.”

The official release date of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World is Oct 26. For more information, click here.

Follow Julia Gaffield on Twitter, @juliagaffield!