African and Asian Free Men and Women of Color and the Development of a Creole Society in Mauritius, 1721-1835


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

ACLS/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Junior Faculty Fellow named award


The central premise in studies of free populations of color is that gens de couleur libre were an 'unappropriated' people confined to the margins of slave plantation life. The historiographical preoccupation with the legal and quasi-legal dimensions of free colored life has limited our understanding of how and why these populations developed as they did, the extent to which they remained marginalized, and their impact on colonial social and economic systems. The Mauritian case study offers a superb opportunity to address these issues, to explore hitherto ignored topics such as the role of free colored women in colonial life and how Creole identity was constructed, and to compare local developments with those of similar populations in West Africa and the Caribbean.