In August 1769, a book named The Female Captive was published anonymously in London. It told the story of a young woman’s capture by Moroccan corsairs in the Mediterranean and her brief but dramatic encounter with the acting Sultan, Sidi Muhammad. The author of this memoir was Elizabeth Marsh, the subject of Linda Colley’s absorbing biography.
Colley first attracted a wide readership with Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837. A subsequent book, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600–1850, broke new ground by examining British imperialism from the perspective of Britons held captive during this period in North Africa, North America, India and Afghanistan. Colley’s method of