researching and writing this book over a number of years I have
incurred more debts of gratitude than I can acknowledge here. Producing
a book may feel like a peculiarly solitary activity, but this is never the
whole story.
My thanks go to the archivists and librarians of the Archives
Nationales in Paris, the Archives d’Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence, the
National Archives of Mauritius, and the Congrégation de la Mission,
Philip Baker, Robin Briggs, Natalie Zemon Davis, Stephen Ellis, Colin
Lucas, and Jane Shaw gave me invaluable advice on di√erent aspects of
the book. My colleagues and friends Ruth Harris, Robert Young and Lois
Mc Nay, provided me with intellectual stimulation and encouragement in
Oxford. Laurence Brockliss read and commented on a draft of the book,
for which I am extremely grateful. I owe particular thanks to Pavi Ram-
hota of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius, who shared his rich
knowledge with me and facilitated my introduction into Creole commu-
nities. Gerard Noyau first made me aware, as a teenager, of the existence
of this Indian Ocean island and its Creole community. My debts to the
work of the following historians of Mauritius will be obvious: Richard
Allen, Marina Carter, Raymond d’Unienville, Marcelle Lagesse, Huguette
Ly-Tio-Fane Pineo, and the late Auguste Toussaint. Ned Alpers (in whose
footsteps I seem to follow) has been characteristically generous with his
vast knowledge of Indian Ocean and African history. I would like to give
my particular thanks to Vijaya Teelock of the University of Mauritius,
who has worked tirelessly and courageously to ensure that the history of
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