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Whether this is due to training, temperament, skill or the threat to professional reputation, we have very few examples of academic historians writing historical fiction. Yet, it is obvious that, of the three genres, historical fiction in its sophisticated as well as popular forms reaches the widest audience, and—through film adaptation—has the most potential to reach even further.

Likewise, it may be useful to consider how biography, microhistory and fiction, each typically represent these key elements of historical narrative. Certainly Furcy has left the greatest documentary trail—including those sheaves compiled by his sympathetic magistrate.

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But where does his story end? With his personal triumph before the Cour royale de Paris? His probable return to his family in Ile Bourbon?

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The decades following formal legal abolition were critical, they argued, in understanding the contemporary positions of laboring classes in Cuba, Jamaica and Africa. By ending the story with the triumph of legal abolition, historians risk valorizing the symbol of emancipation at the expense of understanding the labor regimes enforced on the formerly enslaved by the same propertied interests. What prompted Furcy, for example, to pursue his appeal for over a quarter of a century, from the Bourbon court decision to its overturning by Paris Cour royal in , when he lived the life of a free man under English law?

Such a narrative strategy implicitly foregrounds the interdependence of people and the social ties that help them through adversity, as well as the specific mechanisms in relations of exploitation. It seems to me that the social biography, then, offers an alternative political vision of human experience to the individualism of more conventional biographies.

Indeed, I would argue that the social biography approach has tremendous capacity to prompt new historical questions that can spur more traditional modes of social historical inquiry. To cite a few examples: Indeed, the very naming of people in the historical record is subject to the power of masters, clerks, priests, notaries and administrators. Many writers from the Antilles have embraced historical fiction as a powerful way to connect present inequalities to the injustices of the past. This is what makes fiction potentially very powerful in the service of a politically-oriented historical narrative.

A novel can imagine—and allow a reader to imagine—oneself in the place of people of the past, allowing for empathy and solidarity, when the historical trail of evidence has run cold. Professional standing is to a great degree determined by originality of interpretation, the founding intellectual schools of thought, influence over peers and a subsequent generation of scholarship.

To satisfy historians, a biography must include the evidentiary apparatus of citation and interpretive sophistication with regard to handling of gaps in sources.

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Therefore, from the very outset, our histories are embedded in relations of power by virtue of the topics that we select to research, not only the ways that we tell those stories. And are there implicit dangers therein? Many of these elements have corollaries in contemporary society but may be easier to see at a historical distance.

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However, we, as writers, need to be careful. For whom do we write?

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The second document is at once very important and highly ambiguous. The revised title suggests that the note-taker wishes to distance Furcy from the testimony it contains, yet some of its details could only have been reported by Furcy himself including dialogue between himself and Joseph Lory. Both documents contain demonstrable inaccuracies, introduced by faulty memory or wishful thinking over the intervening years, and the accounts differ in some of the particulars, but the overall picture is fairly consistent: She went out to get M.

Lison would serve as the witness. Instead, Madeleine, unable to read the document, unknowingly signed a receipt for one year of back wages, renouncing the remainder of her back wages. A flutter rose in his heart. Was this to be the day? Lory had been smiling. He must have something up his sleeve… Madeleine stood for a moment outside the thick, finely beveled door.

This was to be the moment of truth!

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All her years of labor and loyalty to the Routier family would now reap her just reward. He knew that her back wages were worth at least three times the purchase price of a skilled man like her son. Madeleine knew that in the end Lory would see reason and accept her deal. Drawing up to her full five feet of height, Madeleine set her chin. She would not let them intimidate her. Thousands—no, millions—of sheets of paper surrounded the room! Michault, that fat, balding, bespectacled man sat behind an enormous desk, piled high with folders and more loose sheets of paper. Each sheet was covered with a spidery scrawl, looping infinitely from edge to edge in monotonous waves of ink.

How did these people make sense of such ciphers, the endless scratches and loops? Madeleine knew how to read people and was determined to finalize this deal with dignity.

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But first we must have a witness. Madeleine thought of Robert Hirau, the shopkeeper, two doors down. He could read these papers and had even advanced her small items, a lemon, a needle, in the past, which she had always paid off in time. But when she returned, breathless, a few minutes later with Robert, the room was crowded with new bodies: Michault, but also Joseph Lory and that pale, watery man Lison.

Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom: The Cheese and the Worms: Mintz Lecture, Current Anthropology , Examples of my early experiments in a fictive voice can be found in the appendix to this paper. Herbert Gerbeau notes that certain archival collections—regarding marronage, slave revolt, miscegenation—were deliberately destroyed or removed from public access Gerbeau, , It is hard to tell whether Furcy employed an amanuensis or drafted and signed most of the letters himself.

Susan Mann suggests that the biographical tradition is also indigenous to Chinese historiography, especially in the celebration of exemplary individuals Mann, , March 23, Language: Not Enabled Screen Reader: Enabled Amazon Best Sellers Rank: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video.

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