Book Reviews Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana. By miranda frances spieler. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012. 296 pp. $49.95 (cloth and e-book). Over the past decade, scholarship on France's Atlantic world empire has expanded chronologically and geographically, but little has been written (let alone in English) on France's colonization on the northern coast of South America. Miranda Spieler's thoroughly researched, sophisticated monograph on the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French Guiana, Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana, is thus a welcome addition to this growing field. Inspired by Marc Bloch's notion of the "unwritten trace," Spieler mines the scant documents on the period (which are spread out among multiple archives on two different continents) both to show how law created French Guiana as an experimental zone where marginal groups could be stripped of their legal identities and to restore visibility to some of those legal nonpersons.1 Drawing on fragments of codes, treatises, debates, and parliamentary records related to the colony's multiple exiled groups--political enemies, convicts, freed slaves, and Maroons (descendants of fugitive slaves living in the colony's forests)--Spieler undertakes an eight-chapter "thought experiment," considering French Guiana both as "a place in France" and in
Journal of World History – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: May 5, 2013
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