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This study explores the shared history of the French Empire from a perspective of material culture in order to re-evaluate the participation of colonial, creole and indigenous agency in the construction of imperial spaces. The decentered approach to a global history of the French colonial realm allows a new understanding of power relations in different locales. Traditional binary models that assume the centralisation of imperial power and control in an imperial center often overlook the variegated nature of agency in the empire. In a selection of case studies in the Caribbean, Canada, Africa and India, several building projects show the mixed group of planners, experts and workers, the composite nature of building materials and elements of different “glocal” styles that give the empire its concrete manifestation and contributed to the emergence of emotions as a means of forming communities and identities.
About the Author
Benjamin Steiner is Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He is also a member of a research group at the University of Munich
Table of Contents
Introduction: Building the French empire
1 Colonial enclosure: Fortification and castles on the Lesser Antilles
2 Ambitions to empire in India: Pondichéry as an imperial city in the Mughal state system
3 Decay and repair: Fort Royal as a perennial construction site on Martinique
4 Mixed society and African “Rococo”: ‘French’ style in Saint-Louis and on Gorée Island
5 Variegated engineering: The builders of the Caribbean empire
6 Community and segregation in Louisbourg: An ‘ideal’ colonial city in Atlantic Canada
7 Motley style: Affective buildings and emotional communities on Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Haiti
Conclusion: The empire as a material construct
Published Sources Bibliography