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1 Burnside Travel Writing- General

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

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The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The year was 1765. Eminent botanist Philibert Commerson had just been appointed to a grand new expedition: the first French circumnavigation of the world. As the ships’ official naturalist, Commerson would seek out resources—medicines, spices, timber, food—that could give the French an edge in the ever-accelerating race for empire.

 

Jeanne Baret, Commerson’s young mistress and collaborator, was desperate not to be left behind. She disguised herself as a teenage boy and signed on as his assistant. The journey made the twenty-six-year-old, known to her shipmates as “Jean” rather than “Jeanne,” the first woman to ever sail around the globe. Yet so little is known about this extraordinary woman, whose accomplishments were considered to be subversive, even impossible for someone of her sex and class.

           

When the ships made landfall and the secret lovers disembarked to explore, Baret carried heavy wooden field presses and bulky optical instruments over beaches and hills, impressing observers on the ships’ decks with her obvious strength and stamina. Less obvious were the strips of linen wound tight around her upper body and the months she had spent perfecting her masculine disguise in the streets and marketplaces of Paris.

           

Expedition commander Louis-Antoine de Bougainville recorded in his journal that curious Tahitian natives exposed Baret as a woman, eighteen months into the voyage. But the true story, it turns out, is more complicated.

 

In The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, Glynis Ridley unravels the conflicting accounts recorded by Baret’s crewmates to piece together the real story: how Baret’s identity was in fact widely suspected within just a couple of weeks of embarking, and the painful consequences of those suspicions; the newly discovered notebook, written in Baret’s own hand, that proves her scientific acumen; and the thousands of specimens she collected, most famously the showy vine bougainvillea.

 

Ridley also richly explores Baret’s awkward, sometimes dangerous interactions with the men on the ship, including Baret’s lover, the obsessive and sometimes prickly naturalist; a fashion-plate prince who, with his elaborate wigs and velvet garments, was often mistaken for a woman himself; the sour ship’s surgeon, who despised Baret and Commerson; even a Tahitian islander who joined the expedition and asked Baret to show him how to behave like a Frenchman.

 

But the central character of this true story is Jeanne Baret herself, a working-class woman whose scientific contributions were quietly dismissed and written out of history—until now. Anchored in impeccable original research and bursting with unforgettable characters and exotic settings, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret offers this forgotten heroine a chance to bloom at long last.

Review:

"An 18th-century peasant expert in countryside herb lore, Jeanne Baret posed as a young man to gain the post of assistant to the naturalist aboard France's first global seafaring expedition in the 1760s. Ridley (Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe) quickly crushes modern romantic ideas of the golden age of exploration: there were rat-scrounging days of starvation and crowded quarters, and significant abuse suffered by Baret at the hands of crew members who at first suspected, and eventually learned, her sex. Since Baret left no memoirs, Ridley carefully parses the few written accounts of the expedition, while occasionally making assumptions about her emotions and acts. Baret's harrowing journey also included scientific discoveries, such as of a plant--named bougainvillea in honor of the expedition's commander--which she believed would cure gangrene, and a Patagonian shrub to help treat the crew's rampant venereal disease. Ridley captures both the optimism that inspired Baret's groundbreaking and courageous trip and the sordid reality she encountered. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Synopsis:

In a deeply researched and engagingly written narrative of science, adventure, love, and an unprecedented voyage of discovery, Ridley reveals the true story of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

About the Author

GLYNIS RIDLEY is the author of Clara’s Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe, which won the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) Prize. A British citizen, she is now a professor of English at the University of Louisville.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307463524
Subtitle:
A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
Author:
Ridley, Glynis
Publisher:
Crown
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Adventurers & Explorers
Subject:
Voyages around the world
Subject:
Explorers -- France.
Subject:
Biography-Women
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20101228
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
BandW PHOTOS
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.56 x 6.51 x 1.18 in 1.1875 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Historical
Biography » Women
Travel » Travel Writing » Exploration
Travel » Travel Writing » General

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe Used Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages Crown Publishing Group (NY) - English 9780307463524 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "An 18th-century peasant expert in countryside herb lore, Jeanne Baret posed as a young man to gain the post of assistant to the naturalist aboard France's first global seafaring expedition in the 1760s. Ridley (Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe) quickly crushes modern romantic ideas of the golden age of exploration: there were rat-scrounging days of starvation and crowded quarters, and significant abuse suffered by Baret at the hands of crew members who at first suspected, and eventually learned, her sex. Since Baret left no memoirs, Ridley carefully parses the few written accounts of the expedition, while occasionally making assumptions about her emotions and acts. Baret's harrowing journey also included scientific discoveries, such as of a plant--named bougainvillea in honor of the expedition's commander--which she believed would cure gangrene, and a Patagonian shrub to help treat the crew's rampant venereal disease. Ridley captures both the optimism that inspired Baret's groundbreaking and courageous trip and the sordid reality she encountered. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Synopsis" by , In a deeply researched and engagingly written narrative of science, adventure, love, and an unprecedented voyage of discovery, Ridley reveals the true story of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
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