Mapping Colonial Louisiana: Settlement Patterns and Ethnic Integration in Spanish Louisiana

Authors: Alexander Cors*, Emory University Libraries
Topics: Historical Geography, Ethnic Geography, Latin America
Keywords: ethnic geography, historical geography, settlement patterns, ethnic relations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This project discusses the spatio-temporal dimension of ethnic segregation and integration in the eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley through the analysis of settlement patterns in colonial Louisiana. I focus on the years from 1788 to 1800, when Spanish Louisiana confronted multiple challenges. In the 1790s, the borderland colony faced the advance of U.S.-American settlements, attacks by hostile indigenous groups, and alleged invasions by French and British forces. In response, the Spanish government tried to build up a series of military outposts and settlements to defend the province. A spatio-temporal view on when and where these settlements were established reveals which areas officials believed to be particularly vulnerable. In the 1790s, an influx of American, French, and German settlers also radically changed the composition of the colony’s population. These immigrants moved to existing colonial towns or created separate communities in the present-day states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. A spatial analysis of new and old settlements reveals how people of different ethnicities lived together in eighteenth-century Louisiana. While towns like St. Louis or Ste. Genevieve housed multi-ethnic societies, newly established communities were often characterized by ethnic cohesion. To reconstruct the ethnic composition of colonial settlements, I use eighteenth-century ethnographies and travel accounts, as well as official correspondence and reports from archives in Seville, Madrid, Aix-en-Provence, and New Orleans. Mapping these settlements brings to the forefront spatial patterns that often remain unnoticed in traditional methods of historical analysis.

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