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The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World Historyby Linda Colley
Synopses & Reviews
This is a book about a world in a life. Conceived in Jamaica and possibly mixed-race, Elizabeth Marsh (1735-1785) traveled farther and was more intimately affected by developments across the globe than the vast majority of men. She was the first woman to publish in English on Morocco, and the first to carry out extensive explorations in eastern and southern India. A creature of multiple frontiers, she spent time in London, Menorca, Rio de Janeiro, and the Cape of Africa. She speculated in Florida land, was caught up in the French and Indian War, linked to voyages to the Pacific, and enmeshed as victim or owner in three different systems of slavery.
She was also crucially part of far larger histories. Marsh’s experiences would have been impossible without her links to the Royal Navy, the East India Company, imperial warfare, and widening international trade. To this extent, her career illumines shifting patterns of Western power and overseas aggression. Yet the unprecedented expansion of connections across continents occurring during her lifetime also ensured that her ideas and personal relationships were shaped repeatedly by events and people beyond Europe: by runaway African slaves; Indian weavers and astronomers; Sephardi Jewish traders; and the great Moroccan sultan, Sidi Muhammad, who schemed to entrap her.
Many biographies remain constrained by a national framework, while global histories are often impersonal. By contrast, in this dazzling and original book, Linda Colley moves repeatedly and questioningly between vast geopolitical transformations and the intricate detail of individual lives. This is a global biography for our globalizing times.
In this remarkable reconstruction of an eighteenth-century woman's extraordinary and turbulent life, historian Linda Colley not only tells the story of Elizabeth Marsh, one of the most distinctive travelers of her time, but also opens a window onto a radically transforming world.Marsh was conceived in Jamaica, lived in London, Gibraltar, and Menorca, visited the Cape of Africa and Rio de Janeiro, explored eastern and southern India, and was held captive at the court of the sultan of Morocco. She was involved in land speculation in Florida and in international smuggling, and was caught up in three different slave systems. She was also a part of far larger histories. Marsh's lifetime saw new connections being forged across nations, continents, and oceans by war, empire, trade, navies, slavery, and print, and these developments shaped and distorted her own progress and the lives of those close to her. Colley brilliantly weaves together the personal and the epic in this compelling story of a woman in world history.
About the Author
Linda Colley is Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 won the Wolfson Prize and, like Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, was a New York Times Notable Book. Colley writes regularly on history and politics for The New York Review of Books, The Nation and The Guardian. She has also lectured for Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, the European Union, the British Council, and 10 Downing Street.
From the Hardcover edition.
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