If you're keeping score, it's now Julia Gaffield 2, all other Haiti historians 0.
A year ago, the Duke graduate student made international news in scholarly circles upon discovering the first known copy of Haiti's Declaration of Independence. She did so while combing through the British National Archives.It was a big deal, particularly on the heels of the earthquake that did such damage and brought so much attention to the Caribbean nation.
Well. Now Gaffield's just showing off. Last month, she did it again, plucking another printed copy of the document from the same archives.
(Duke University photo)
This one's different. It is one page and as large as a poster, unlike the first, which was an eight-page pamphlet. And it likely served a different purpose.
As Duke News writer Camille Jackson notes here, it was common when Haiti declared its independence from France in 1804 to post poster-sized proclamations in public areas. The eight-page pamphlet version of the declaration Gaffield discovered last year, in contrast, was probably produced for a more formal audience such as the British government.
Gaffield's still doing work in Europe right now but answered some questions via email. I asked her if she's now feeling like an expert in the unearthing of these sorts of documents.
"An expert? No," she wrote. "I think the fun part about studying history is that you constantly find new things and new sources surprise you and make you rethink assumptions that you had made."
Gaffield's first discovery brought with it a great deal of media attention for Gaffield, a doctoral student in history.
"It was incredible to see the power of history in contemporary society," she wrote. "This discovery provided an opportunity for diverse people to learn about and connect with a really exciting moment in the history of the Americas. I really enjoyed and benefited from the opportunity to speak to public audiences about my research and it was cool to see how people engaged with this history."