The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History

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By Linda Colley. Description In this remarkable reconstruction of an eighteenth-century woman's extraordinary and turbulent life, historian Linda Colley not only tells the story of Elizabeth Marsh, one of the most distinctive travelers of her time, but also opens a window onto a radically transforming world.

Marsh was conceived in Jamaica, lived in London, Gibraltar, and Menorca, visited the Cape of Africa and Rio de Janeiro, explored eastern and southern India, and was held captive at the court of the sultan of Morocco. She was involved in land speculation in Florida and in international smuggling, and was caught up in three different slave systems.

The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh by Linda Colley: | Books

She was also a part of far larger histories. Marsh's lifetime saw new connections being forged across nations, continents, and oceans by war, empire, trade, navies, slavery, and print, and these developments shaped and distorted her own progress and the lives of those close to her.

Colley brilliantly weaves together the personal and the epic in this compelling story of a woman in world history. Davis Professor of History at Princeton University. The Invention of Tradition. Eric Hobsbawm. The Secret Life of Words. Henry Hitchings. Ashley Jackson. The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, Piers Brendon.

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The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History

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Linda Colley

Nicholas Murray. Buildings of Empire. Captain Cook's Merchant Ships. Thus biography, with its preference for the interior life, is often defined in opposition to historical narrative. Almost 40 pages go by before she gives us even one word from her subject, an obscure 18th-century travel writer whose single published work appears to survive only as a lone copy in the British Library. Marsh was born in to a British shipwright father and a Jamaican mother whose identity cannot be verified but whose name closely resembles those of two women Colley traced through island records, one almost certainly the daughter of a slave and her master.

Was Elizabeth Marsh biracial?

Brief History of Elizabeth Marsh

No images or physical descriptions survive: we cannot know. When Marsh left her husband to travel for 18 months in eastern and southern India, had there been a rift in the marriage, or was Marsh simply indulging her wanderlust?

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No confession in her travel diary, no letter to the abandoned husband gives a clue.