The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History

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9780007192182: The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History

From the author of ‘Britons’, the story of the exceptional life of the intrepid Elizabeth Marsh – an extraordinary woman of her time who was caught up in trade, imperialism, war, exploration, migration, growing maritime reach, and new ideas. Linda Colley's new book breaks the boundaries between biography, family stories and global history.

This is a book about a world in a life. An individual lost to history, Elizabeth Marsh (1735-85) travelled farther, and was more intimately affected by developments across the globe, than the vast majority of men. Conceived in Jamaica and possibly mixed-race, she was the first woman to publish in English on Morocco, and the first to carry out extensive overland explorations in eastern and southern India, journeying in each case in close companionship with an unmarried man. She spent time in some of the world's biggest ports and naval bases, Portsmouth, Menorca, Gibraltar, London, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta and the Cape. She was damaged by the Seven Years War and the American Revolutionary War; and linked through her own migrations with voyages of circumnavigation, and as victim and owner, she was involved in three different systems of slavery.

But hers is a broadly revealing, not simply an exceptional, life. Marsh's links to the Royal Navy, the East India Company, empire and international trade made these experiences possible. To this extent, her career illumines shifting patterns of British and Western power and overseas aggression. The swift onset of globalization occurring in her lifetime also ensured that her progress, relationships and beliefs were repeatedly shaped and deflected by people and events beyond Europe. While imperial players like Edmund Burke and Eyre Coote form a part of her story, so do African slave sailors, skilled Indian weavers and astronomers, ubiquitous Sephardi Jewish traders, and the great Moroccan Sultan, Sidi Muhammad, who schemed to entrap her.

Many modern biographies remain constrained by a national framework, while global histories are generally impersonal. By contrast, in this dazzling and original book, Linda Colley moves repeatedly and questioningly between vast geo-political transformations and the intricate detail of individual lives. This is a global biography for our globalizing times.

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Product Description:

The Ordeal Of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman In World History

Review:

'This is a remarkable book, both for its contents and because it is a new species of biography...Linda Colley has written a full-blown economic romance with an extraordinary range...bringing all the resources of her skills as a historian
and researcher to her story. It is a major achievement and an enthralling narrative'. The Guardian

‘Compelling...exhilarating...as a work of big history illustrated with brilliant minatures it is a triumph.’ Sunday Times

‘A fascinating and compulsively readable book, written with great elegance and insight...Elizabeth's wanderings across the mid–eighteenth century world are evoked with a wonderful eye...marvellous detail and fine definition...a vivid depiction of an extraordinary life that touched multiple aspects of the British encounter with the non-Western world.’ TLS

'Stimulating and impressive...this is a remarkable life.' Financial Times

‘A minor miracle of biographical reconstruction...a fine historian.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Fascinating...brilliant...important.’ The Independent

‘Exceptional...Colley humanises history and alters our idea of biograph.’ Sunday Telegraph

'Immensely detailed but immaculately organised...her book is a work of skewering historical precision and vast imaginative reach...Colley's style of irreproachable clarity makes light work of the global complexities of her story. Her synthesis of the facts is masterly...her book is both moving and profound.' Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books

‘A rather remarkable piece of archival detective work.’ The Spectator

'A fascinating read...there is nothing unremarkable about this woman, or about her colourful story in Linda Colley's quite superb biography.' The Scotsman

'A remarkable book mixing brilliant archival sleuthing, an intriguing narrative, perceptive analysis and fine descriptive prose...it is a remarkable story and the imaginative and original mode of telling it shows again that Colley is not only one of the most remarkable historians at work today, but also one of our most interesting writers of non-fiction in any category.' New Statesman

'Colley's thrillingly new take on world history, the depth of her research and the originality of her analysis of the source material combine to reveal the life of Elizabeth Marsh in ways of which Marsh herself could never have dreamed.' Daily Telegraph

'The many levels of this engrossing biography brilliantly interconnect Elizabeth's story, her family and their lives with a developing world.' The Times

'Linda Colley has mined the diaries of relatives to pull together a compelling portrait that sets her heroine against the rise of the British empire...breathtaking...Ms. Colley allows the reader to vault the pioneering life of an obscure woman into a grander tale of physical hardiness and surprising moral choices.' The Economist

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