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Brave New World

Louisiana’s Cane River Colony was a daring dream made real by an ex-slave named Marie Thérèse Coincoin. The facts about her astonishing achievement have been wildly compromised over the centuries, but what I’ve set down here is true enough. Marie was born in 1742 to African slave parents in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and bore four children, fathers unknown. She was eventually leased to a Frenchman, Claude Pierre Metoyer, a union producing ten more issue. In 1778, Metoyer bought and freed Marie and gave her a cabin and 68 acres of rich land where the industrious Marie grew indigo and tobacco and sold medicines and bearskins. She eventually earned enough to buy land on Isle Brevelle, a sliver of land thirty miles long and a few miles wide between the Cane and Old...

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Researching Venice for my next time travel book exposed some peculiar surprises about my favorite Italian city. Tourist hordes, floods and exorbitant prices aside, it endures as a spectacular living museum, but some due diligence revealed that, like its patron St. Mark, some of Venice’s more famous artworks didn’t arrive willingly. Like most empire-builders, the Venetians were notoriously light-fingered. In 828, with its archrival Rome boasting St. Peter’s tomb, Venice decided its patron saint, Theodore of Amasea, didn’t carry enough clout. Seeking someone more prestigious, and with the remains of Jesus’s disciples being a limited commodity, they went after Mark’s relics in Alexandria. Thieves masquerading as merchants sailed for Egypt, snatched the body...

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