(From our email)
I thought the readers of H-French-Colonial might be interested in a new book by Oxford University Press: Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies
Madeleine's Children uncovers a multigenerational saga of an enslaved family in India and two islands, Réunion and Mauritius, in the eastern empires of France and Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A tale of legal intrigue, it reveals the lives and secret relationships between slaves and free people that have remained obscure for two centuries. As a child, Madeleine was pawned by her impoverished family and became the slave of a French woman in Bengal. She accompanied her mistress to France as a teenager, but she did not challenge her enslavement there on the basis of France's Free Soil principle, a consideration that did not come to light until future lawyers investigated her story. In France, a new master and mistress purchased her, despite laws prohibiting the sale of slaves within the kingdom. The couple transported Madeleine across the ocean to their plantation in the Indian Ocean colonies, where she eventually gave birth to three children: Maurice, Constance, and Furcy. One died a slave and two eventually became free, but under very different circumstances. On 21 November 1817, Furcy exited the gates of his master's mansion and declared himself a free man. The lawsuit waged by Furcy to challenge his wrongful enslavement ultimately brought him before the Royal Court of Paris, despite the extreme measures that his putative master, Joseph Lory, deployed to retain him as his slave. This book investigates the cunning, clandestine, and brutal strategies that masters devised to keep slaves under their control-and paints a vivid picture of the unique and evolving meanings of slavery and freedom in the Indian Ocean world.
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