Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, American University of Paris

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1999
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
Empire and Underworld: Guiana in the French Legal Imagination, 1789-1870

The Directory sent royalists and priests there (1798), whom they hoped to make into colonists. In 1852 began a disastrous attempt to make Guiana, then a plantation society, into the French Botany Bay. Concerns about the danger posed to the public by ex-convicts converged with strategies for imperial extension in this experiment. Its origins can be found in plans for imperial recovery by the Restoration navy, inspired by the model of Australia. This study will follow the rise of deportation as an idea with a growing number of adherents in the 19th century and trace the process by which overseas camps were created, with a sensitivity to changes in the penal regime over time. Through its association with El Dorado, official and private memory of the Directory deportations, continuing rumors of the jungle's unexploited wealth, and confusion about its climate, Guiana accumulated a legendary significance that inspired the French to attempt there what started as a utopian project.