NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : The island of Mauritius lies in the
middle of the Indian Ocean, about 550 miles east of Madagascar.
Uninhabited until the arrival of colonists in the late sixteenth
century, Mauritius was subsequently populated by many different
peoples as successive waves of colonizers and slaves arrived
at its shores. The French ruled the island from the early eighteenth
century until the early nineteenth. Throughout the 1700s, ships
brought men and women from France to build the colonial population
and from Africa and India as slaves. In Creating the Creole
Island, the distinguished historian Megan Vaughan traces
the complex and contradictory social relations that developed
on Mauritius under French colonial rule, paying particular attention
to questions of subjectivity and agency.
Combining archival research with
an engaging literary style, Vaughan juxtaposes extensive analysis
of court records with examinations of the logs of slave ships
and of colonial correspondence and travel accounts. The result
is a close reading of life on the island, power relations, colonialism,
and the process of cultural creolization. Vaughan brings to light
complexities of language, sexuality, and reproduction as well
as the impact of the French Revolution. Illuminating a crucial
period in the history of Mauritius, Creating the Creole Island
is a major contribution to the historiography of slavery, colonialism,
and creolization across the Indian Ocean.
Megan Vaughan is Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at Cambridge
University. She is the author of several books including Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890–1990 (with Henrietta L. Moore) and Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness.
there was a time when the island of Mauritius was uninhabited, but
those who landed on it either by design or misfortune from the late
sixteenth century found a place full of traces, real or fantastical, of
others who had trodden there before. There were traces of those who had
come and gone, and of those who had come and died, but the most
haunting of all were the traces left by those who might still be
there : the real terror faced by the marooned was not that they
were alone, but that they might not be alone after all. This small
island always had internal islands of habitations within it : an
interior which was simultaneously exterior, repudiated. But most
exclusion is an illusion […].
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