The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History

‘A remarkable book, both for its contents and because it is a new species of biography’
Guardian 26 May 2007

‘A tour de force of scholarly investigation’
New York Review of Books 27 September 2007

‘A fascinating and compulsively readable book, written with great elegance and insight’
Times Literary Supplement 2007

‘A minor miracle of biographical reconstruction… which slices across, and cuts deep into, huge areas of eighteenth-century life’
Sunday Telegraph 07 June 2007

‘A work of skewering historical precision and vast imaginative reach’
London Review of Books 21 June 2007

‘Like the best historians of any era, Colley had new questions to ask. Her answers have brought us a world in a book’
New York Times 16 September 2007

New York Times ‘best ten books of 2007’ Vintage (US) and Harper Perennial (UK) paperback editions 2008

The story of the exceptional life of the intrepid Elizabeth Marsh – an extraordinary woman of her time who was caught up in trade, imperialism, war, exploration, migration, growing maritime reach, and new ideas.

This is a book about a world in a life. An individual lost to history, Elizabeth Marsh (1735-85) travelled farther, and was more intimately affected by developments across the globe, than the vast majority of men. Conceived in Jamaica and possibly mixed-race, she was the first woman to publish in English on Morocco, and the first to carry out extensive overland explorations in eastern and southern India, journeying in each case in close companionship with an unmarried man. She spent time in some of the world’s biggest ports and naval bases, Portsmouth, Menorca, Gibraltar, London, Rio de Janeiro, Calcutta and the Cape. She was damaged by the Seven Years War and the American Revolutionary War; and linked through her own migrations with voyages of circumnavigation, and as victim and owner, she was involved in three different systems of slavery.