As it grew, the sugar trade enriched Europe as never before, financing the Industrial Revolution and fuelling the Enlightenment. And, as well, it became the basis of many economies in South America, played an important part in the evolution of the United States as a world power and transformed the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches. But this sweet and hugely profitable trade—“white gold,” as it was known—had profoundly less palatable consequences in its precipitation of the enslavement of Africans to work the fields on the islands and, ultimately, throughout the American continents. Interspersing the tectonic shifts of colonial history with her family’s experience, Stuart explores the interconnected themes of settlement, sugar and slavery with extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity. In examining how these forces shaped her own family—its genealogy, intimate relationships, circumstances of birth, varying hues of skin—she illuminates how her family, among millions of others like it, in turn transformed the society in which they lived, and how that interchange continues to this day. Shifting between personal and global history, Stuart gives us a deepened understanding of the connections between continents, between black and white, between men and women, between the free and the enslaved. It is a story brought to life with riveting and unparalleled immediacy, a story of fundamental importance to the making of our world.
One of the most potent icons of female sexuality, Josephine has largely been reduced to an empty cipher, wife to her more famous husband and the butt of one of the oldest jokes around. Yet as Andrea Stuart shows, the girl who grew up on the beautiful island of Martinique endured Caribbean slave revolts, an arranged marriage, and the threat of the guillotine before she even met the man who made her Empress of France. In the grip of turbulent times, Josephine used her intelligence and her allure to forge her way in a Paris that raged and fought and danced its way through revolution and empire. This is the thrilling story of her strength, survival and ultimate transformation.
One of the most remarkable women of the modern era, Josephine Bonaparte was born Rose de Tasher on her family’s sugar plantation in Martinique. She embodied all the characteristics of a true Creole—sensuality, vivacity, and willfulness.
Rescued from near starvation, she grew to epitomize the wild decadence of post-revolutionary Paris. It was there that Josephine first caught the eye of Napoleon Bonaparte. A true partner to Napoleon, she was equal parts political adviser, hostess par excellence, confidante, and passionate lover.
Josephine managed to be in the forefront of every important episode of her era’s turbulent history: from the rise of the West Indian slave plantations that bankrolled Europe’s rapid economic development, to the decaying of the ancien régime, to the French Revolution itself, from which she barely escaped the guillotine.
Using diaries and letters, Andrea Stuart brings her so utterly to life that we finally understand why Napoleon’s last word before dying was the name he had given her: Josephine.
“A comprehensive and truly empathetic biography. Andrea Stuart, who was raised in the Caribbean, combines scholarly distance with a genuine attempt to understand her heroine.” —The Washington Post