Cover: Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana, from Harvard University PressCover: Empire and Underworld in HARDCOVER

Harvard Historical Studies 174

Empire and Underworld

Captivity in French Guiana

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Product Details


$59.00 • £47.95 • €53.00

ISBN 9780674057548

Publication Date: 04/23/2012


296 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

2 maps, 2 tables

Harvard Historical Studies


This sophisticated study illuminates the history of French Guiana and enriches our understanding of the intertwined histories of France and the Caribbean. Braiding together vivid narratives of exile and imprisonment with detailed legal history, Spieler brilliantly analyzes the complexities of the French colonial order.—Laurent Dubois, Duke University

In this provocative book, we learn how the juridical order of a nation—even a democratic one—can create an administrative space which definitively erased its inhabitants from the civil sphere. In French Guiana, émigrés from the French Revolution, then slaves and ex-slaves, deported convicts and indentured workers were rendered invisible before the law. Inspired by the Australian and the Algerian experiences and also by Catholic and Socialist utopias, this process required juridical imagination as well as the ambiguities of empire. While set in nineteenth-century colonial France, Spieler’s powerfully illuminating story has deep relevance for today’s world.—Jean M. Hébrard, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, co-author of Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation

This striking, original, and very intelligent book is concerned with a vast theme: the contrast between the principles of 1789 (liberty, equality, fraternity) and the realities of the lives of deportees in Guiana. In an age concerned with human rights, this book is of universal relevance. These pages may seem to be about the heart of colonial darkness in a far away place, but they are in fact about the heart of darkness in France itself.—Patrice Higonnet, Harvard University

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