The island of Mauritius lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean, about 550 miles east of Madagascar. Uninhabited until the arrival of colonists in the late sixteenth century, Mauritius was subsequently populated by many different peoples as successive waves of colonizers and slaves arrived at its shores. The French ruled the island from the early eighteenth century until the early nineteenth. Throughout the 1700s, ships brought men and women from France to build the colonial population and from Africa and India as slaves. In Creating the Creole Island, the distinguished historian Megan Vaughan traces the complex and contradictory social relations that developed on Mauritius under French colonial rule, paying particular attention to questions of subjectivity and agency.
Combining archival research with an engaging literary style, Vaughan juxtaposes extensive analysis of court records with examinations of the logs of slave ships and of colonial correspondence and travel accounts. The result is a close reading of life on the island, power relations, colonialism, and the process of cultural creolization. Vaughan brings to light complexities of language, sexuality, and reproduction as well as the impact of the French Revolution. Illuminating a crucial period in the history of Mauritius, Creating the Creole Island is a major contribution to the historiography of slavery, colonialism, and creolization across the Indian Ocean.
Megan Vaughan is Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at Cambridge University. She is the author of several books including Cutting Down Trees: Gender, Nutrition, and Agricultural Change in the Northern Province of Zambia, 1890-1990 (with Henrietta L. Moore) and Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness.