Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803

Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803

Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803

Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803

Synopsis

In this expansive book, David Narrett shows how the United States emerged as a successor empire to Great Britain through rivalry with Spain in the Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast. As he traces currents of peace and war over four critical decades--from the close of the Seven Years War through the Louisiana Purchase--Narrett sheds new light on individual colonial adventurers and schemers who shaped history through cross-border trade, settlement projects involving slave and free labor, and military incursions into Spanish and Indian territories.

Narrett examines the clash of empires and nationalities from the diverse perspectives of Native Americans and of the competing Spanish, French, British, and Anglo-American forces. In a time of great transition, the Louisiana and Florida frontiers were enmeshed in turbulent international politics and experienced tremors from both the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution. By demonstrating the pervasiveness of intrigue and subterfuge in borderland rivalries and showing that U.S. Manifest Destiny was not a linear or inevitable progression, Narrett redefines the important role these North American borderlands had in shaping the history of the Atlantic world.

Excerpt

The imperial map of North America changed dramatically and frequently from the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Whether by choice or compulsion, European powers transferred vast continental expanses among themselves with scant regard for colonials, let alone for the Indian peoples whose land was at stake. International gyrations pushed the Mississippi Valley and southeastern North America into new political orbits. France secretly gave Louisiana to Spain in 1762, while Madrid returned the favor to Paris by another sub rosa compact in 1800. Florida changed colonial masters and carried variable geographic definitions over decades. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain, which concurrently acquired eastern portions of French Louisiana. From these gains, England created two new colonies—West and East Florida—along the continent’s southern rim. Spain subsequently snared the Floridas from Britain in warfare from 1779 to 1781 and the resulting peace settlement of 1783. The war’s end brought new controversy as the United States and Spain contended over West Florida’s boundary and the use of the Mississippi. Given these permutations, historians are challenged to explain how imperial rivalries interfaced with colonialism, slavery, and evolving Indian societies across southeastern North America during the late eighteenth century.

Imperialism and colonialism are often taken as synonyms, though they signify distinct if related historical processes. Imperial rule presumes a system of political-military-economic dominance by a polity reaching beyond strictly national bounds to incorporate multiple ethnicities and territories. Empires, which have historically assumed a myriad of political forms, are typically characterized by the exercise of power over vast physical space and the practice of distinguishing between various subject peoples or territories. Colonialism implies the transplanting of individuals and groups to regions outside their national homelands—and the consequent development of new settler societies whose character frequently evolved through relationships with indigenous peoples and with others outside the dominant settler community. Colonials and their descendants . . .

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