“[A] searing story of France’s attempt to colonize the vast Sahara desert and of two unforgettable men who dedicated their lives to the effort. . . . Effectively, Fleming contrasts the diligent, tough-minded professionalism of the two men with the futility of their task.” Rob Mitchell, The Boston Herald
The Sword and the Cross
Two Men and an Empire of Sand
978-0-8021-4173-6 • $15.00 • Paperback • Nov. 2004
From one of our most captivating narrative historians, “an adventure story that reads like the finest fiction” (Booklist)
Whether writing of the Alps, the high seas, or the North Pole, Fergus Fleming has won acclaim as one of today’s most vivid and engaging historians of adventure and exploration. The Sword and the Cross takes us to the Sahara at the end of the nineteenth century, when France had designs on a hostile wilderness dominated by deadly Tuareg nomads.
Two fanatical adventurers, Charles de Foucauld and Henri Laperrine, rose to the cause of their country’s national honor. Abandoning his decadent lifestyle as a sensualist and womanizer, Foucauld founded a monastic order so severe that during his lifetime it never had a membership of more than one. Yet he remained a committed imperialist and from his remote hermitage continued to assist the military. The stern career soldier Laperrine, meanwhile, founded a camel corps whose exploits became legendary. During World War I the Sahara’s fragile peace crumbled. In the desert mountains Foucauld paid a tragic price for his role as imperial pawn. Laperrine, by then recalled to the Western Front, returned to avenge his friend.
The Sword and the Cross is a haunting narrative of a forgotten period in Europe’s colonial crusade, a story of sacrifice and cruelty, discovery and delusion.