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Lords and Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings With Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618367519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618367511
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This quirky and engaging history cum memoir explores the issue of sustainable development in a microcosm called Berenty, a private nature preserve in southern Madagascar surrounded by plantations and many desperately poor people. Primatologist Jolly (Lucy’s Legacy) has spent much of her life studying the lemur population of Berenty, but she is also a keen observer of the life and culture of the Tandroy people who live nearby. The respectful coexistence of monkeys and men is due, she feels, to the leadership of the de Heaulme family, a French colonial dynasty who preserved a patch of pristine forest when they carved out their plantations. Through their story, Jolly surveys the history of Madagascar from the 17th-century arrival of the French through the harsh colonial regime, the 1947 War of Independence and the famines and political upheavals of recent decades. The de Heaulmes emerge as exemplary seigneurs, exercising a protective stewardship over land and people while fostering long-term economic development that doesn’t obliterate the region’s cultural or ecological legacy. Indeed, as they reorient the family business from commercial agriculture to 21st-century ecotourism, they represent to Jolly a kind of feudal third way between what she sees as the stagnation and corruption of socialism and the rapaciousness of global capitalism. Jolly can seem a tad starry-eyed about the de Heaulmes, who are personal friends, and doesn’t explain how their brand of benevolent paternalism could be institutionalized. But her vivid storytelling and perceptive insights into the natural and social worlds of Berenty make the tension between economic growth and environmental preservation come alive in human terms. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

Jolly, a pioneer in the study of primate behavior, first went to Madagascar to observe lemurs 40 years ago. Her research site was at Berenty, a private wildlife refuge that was part of the plantation of an aristocratic French family. The de Heaulmes had come to Berenty in 1928. As they developed their plantation over the years, they also set aside a large area of it for lemurs and other animals and helped the native Tandroy tribe preserve their traditions. At the beginning of the 21st century, Berenty and its lemurs still flourish because the de Heaulme family are still there--and vice versa. "Forest and family saved each other," Jolly says. The plantation no longer produces sisal commercially; together with the preserved forest and its lemurs, it has become a destination for eco-tourists. Woven around the life of the de Heaulme family is the entire history of Madagascar--its geology, its animals and its colonization by humans, beginning with Indonesians and Africans in around A.D. 500. It is an unexpectedly enthralling story, told with great flair.

Editors of Scientific American

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Author Alison Jolly, an expert in the study of primate behavior, poses the following question with her remarkable new book: "Where can you find scientists from all over the world, a family of French aristocrats who never quite noticed the French Revolution, a pastoralist tribe who still think of themselves as spear-carrying warriors, six species of lemurs, and usually a TV team underfoot?"
The answer is Berenty, Madagascar.
Some 40 years ago Jolly went to Madagascar for the first time to study lemurs. The perfect research site was found at Berenty, a private wildlife refuge located on a plantation owned by a French family, the de Heaulmes.
As the family developed their plantation they also cultivated a congenial relationship with the native tribespeople, the Tandroy. The Tandroy, the "King with Spears are as proud a people as the French family that came to share their land. In this remarkable book Jolly tells the story of how the tribe lives today, retaining much of their original culture while availing themselves of beneficial modernities, such as health care and education.
Credit is due, Jolly notes, not only to the Tandroy but to the French aristocrats who feel and exhibit both respect and responsibility for the land, the people, and the animals with whom they live.
For instance, when the people of Madagascar sought freedom from France, the de Heaulmes stood with them, and when one of the de Heaulmes was jailed during a civil war, the Tandroy stormed the prison demanding his release.
Jolly is a gifted writer with an acute perception of people and places. It's a pleasure to visit Berenty with her as guide.
- Gail Cooke
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on February 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It never ceases to amaze me that people often think that history only happens to their cultures and possibly related ones. We, with good reason, teach American history in schools (although sometimes not well enough when you see polls showing that a unusually high number of our citizens cannot tell the Constitution well enough to distinguish it from the Communist Manifesto!) and to a lesser extent European and sometimes Asian histories. However when we were dealing with the two World Wars, others on the so-called fringes of the civilized world were doing the same. We tend to often ignore parts of the world that do not immediately impinge on us, but we may do so at our peril (as was graphically shown on September 11, 2001!)

It is one of the far-flung parts of the once huge French empire that is the subject of a very unusual book by the well-known primatologist Alison Jolly. "Lords and Lemurs" is mostly set in southern Madagascar in an area dominated by mimosa thorn scrub and populated by the native Tandroy, the French settlers and by several species of Madagascar's unique lemurs. Jolly writes a somewhat eccentric book about a very eccentric (from our view!) land. You find it difficult to dislike most of the people, even though some had to fight for the puppet government of Vichy during World War II and you find the fauna and flora fascinating.

Jolly does not spoon feed us. We are shown the horrors as well as the joys. Lemurs, we find, are not quite the cuddly creatures of Disney cartoons (they fight and sometimes kill even their own species), but they are for all that enchanting creatures (and who are we to throw stones anyway?) The people have not always had admirable intentions and are sometimes quite flawed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roderick Eime on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had the great pleasure (and fortune) to meet Alison Jolly during my visit to Berenty in September 2003.
She graciously and eloquently addressed our small tour group and gave us a rare insight into her understanding of lemur behaviour.
The book is an absolute must for anybody with even a passing interest in Madagascar, anthropology and lemurs.
Most importantly, it documents this remarkable family (the de Heaulmes) and sheds light on the complex and mysterious history of Berenty and its part in the modern history of Madagascar.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Uniack Davis on April 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This rich, unusual book is hard to categorize -- It is a fascinating combination of history and memoir by renowned naturalist Alison Jolly, who has been working in Madagascar since 1963. She uses her own experiences in primate research and environmental protection in Madagascar, as well as the reminiscences of her friends the de Heaulme family, proprietors of the Berenty Reserve and numerous holdings in and around Fort Dauphin in extreme southeast Madagascar, to comment on a wide range of issues such as colonization, Malagasy politics, ethnic groups of southern Madagascar, donor environment, food security, and so on. While this very readable volume focuses on the southern zone from Fort Dauphin to Berenty Reserve and Amboasary, it provides a wealth of contextual information about Madagascar in general.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bullwinkle on November 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alison Jolly is a wonderful story-teller and makes Malagasy Madagascar and old French Madagascar come to life. The reader learns about a particular corner in southern Madagascar and the lives of its native tribes and French colonialists.

Lemurs brought Alison Joly to Madagascar but the fascination for this reader was her evocative portraits of people. Zebus and sisal rather than lemurs seem more relevant to her tale, until Prince Philip arrives and appears to shock an uncaring government that the country is committing ecological suicide. There is now a new government and it may be taking the environment more seriously. That would be a change in Madagascar!

As a former resident of Madagascar, I loved the book and the way Alison Jolly brings the place to life.
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