When I first came to the study of the Hernando de Soto expedition some ten years ago as an ethnohistorian, I was appalled by the general lack of modern historiography of the expedition, and I spent a good deal of time carping loudly to that effect. I soon realized, however, that I ought to stop complaining unless I had something constructive to offer, and so I decided to try to find a way to do just that. I found experts and pestered them until they consented to help by carrying out original research to fill in yet another puzzle piece. The Mississippi Humanities Council funded travel and honoraria for many of these contributors to present their papers and exchange ideas at the 1991 meeting of the Mississippi Historical Society; the Mississippi Historical Society graciously provided honoraria for some of the remaining contributors. Other papers were offered as news of the project spread. Elbert Hilliard, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, gave this project a home as part of the department's activities for the Columbus Quincentenary. Altamese Wash, secretary to the Special Projects Section, did the initial preparation of the electronic text in her usual efficient style. I hope that the result is a workable historiographical prolegomenon to the study of the expedition and especially of the people whose lives it touched. Together with the recent publication of translations of many of the sources, this volume should serve as a jumping-off point for the next round of Soto scholarship--in fifty more years.