The Hanging of Angelique

Article excerpt


Review by Sheila Nopper

In 1734, Marie-Joseph Angelique, a rebellious slave of prominent merchants in the French colony of Montreal, was hanged for allegedly burning down a substantial portion of the city. Though no one died and no one actually witnessed her starting the fire, after enduring numerous hostile interrogations, she finally confessed to the crime while being tortured.

Based on her meticulous research of church, state and historical publications, as well as detailed court transcripts of Angelique's incarceration and trial, in The Hanging of Angelique, biographer Afua Cooper places the reader within the social, cultural, economic and political context of the period during which Angelique's story unfolded-a time of rampantly competitive intercontinental trade and imperial conquests. With an attentive critical eye, acute historical sensibility and compassionate speculation, Cooper traces the arduous journey of this now legendary woman from her Portuguese birthplace to her enslavement in the colonies of the United States and, ultimately, Canada. In so doing, she exposes one of the oldest slave narratives of North America. …