Bound together by social, demographic, and economic commonalities, the territory extending from East Texas to West Florida occupies a unique space in early American history. A masterful synthesis of two decades of scholarly work, F. Todd Smith’s Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, 1500–1821 examines the region’s history from the eve of European colonization to the final imposition of American hegemony.
The agricultural richness of the Gulf Coast gave rise to an extraordinarily diverse society: development of food crops rendered local indigenous groups wealthier and more powerful than their counterparts in New England and the West, and white demand for plantation slave labor produced a disproportionately large black population compared to other parts of the country. European settlers were a heterogeneous mix as well, creating a multinational blend of cultures and religions that did not exist on the largely Anglo-Protestant Atlantic Coast.
Because of this diversity, which allowed no single group to gain primacy over the rest, Smith’s study characterizes the Gulf South as a frontier from the sixteenth century to the early years of the nineteenth. Only in the twenty years following the Louisiana Purchase did Americans manage to remove most of the Indian tribes, overwhelm Louisiana’s French Creoles numerically and politically, and impose a racial system in accordance with the rest of the Deep South.
Moving fluently across the boundaries of colonial possessions and state lines, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, 1500–1821 is a comprehensive and highly readable overview of the Gulf Coast’s distinctive and enthralling history.
F. Todd Smith is professor of history at the University of North Texas and the author or coauthor of five books, including Colonial Natchitoches: A Creole Community on the Louisiana-Texas Frontier and From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786–1859.
Praise for Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, 1500-1821
“A sweeping and useful synthesis of three centuries of history across the Gulf South. . . . The book is an ideal introduction for students and other readers wanting to understand this fascinating time and place.”—Arkansas Historical Quarterly
“Anyone who has ever wondered how Texas is embedded within the southern United States needs to read this book. . . . Smith breathes new life into an otherwise familiar tale [and] offers a fresh analytic approach in the recent trend of new frontier history.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“A needed and welcome comprehensive account of the region. Grounded in extensive and recent literature on the subject, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, 1500–1821 is excellent for undergraduate college courses and also appropriate for the general reading public. A significant contribution.”—Journal of Southern History