Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves: The Spanish Regulation of Slavery in Louisiana, 1763-1803

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Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves: The Spanish Regulation of Slavery in Louisiana, 1763-1803. By Gilbert C. Din. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, c. 1999. Pp. xiv, 356. $49.95, ISBN 0-89096-904-3.)

Historians in recent years have focused much attention on colonial Louisiana and in so doing have produced some of the most innovative and important historical treatises to date. It seems unusual, given the extraordinary history of the region, that it failed to attract such attention earlier. But Louisiana tended to be overlooked by historians who were drawn to more immediately obvious attractions--for instance, the colonial histories of British North America and the Caribbean. Recognized as an economically struggling colony, Louisiana seemed to afford sparse crumbs when there were rich pickings elsewhere. Yet recent historians have amply confirmed the richness and significance of the historical drama of Louisiana.

Din's book fills in many of the gaps remaining in our understanding of the region. This study of Spanish control, based in painstaking archival work, offers a great deal of detailed narrative about the fluctuations in Spanish policy towards the colony and, most interestingly, the ameliorative measures in dealing with local slaves. It also adds to our understanding of the emergence of New Orleans, where color and class took a quite different trajectory than elsewhere in North America, and also has interesting comments to make (and revisions to earlier arguments) about the nature of local slave life. The rawness of the Louisiana slave experience--the sheer grimness of slave life on the Spanish North American frontier--places it much closer to the Caribbean, rather than the British North American, model of plantation slavery. …