Contesting Borderlands: Policy and Practice in Spanish Louisiana, 1765-1800
Kolb, Frances Bailey
This dissertation explores the contest for the Lower Mississippi Valley from 1765 to 1800. During this era, Spain held Louisiana. Conflict over the Lower Mississippi Valley has been characterized as a competition among empires for territory. Close scrutiny, however, reveals a far more complicated and contingent story about a region significantly contested by multiple empires and occupied by a dynamic and diverse population. “Borderlanders,” that diversity of indigenous, colonial, and immigrant groups actually occupying the contested space in and around Spanish Louisiana, in fact, played an instrumental role in the competition between empires for territory, alliance, and commerce in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Once we examine the Lower Mississippi River Valley as a space of competition between border designers and borderlanders, it becomes clear that Spain did attempt to incorporate Louisiana into its empire, specifically as a border colony. When the fluidity that had long characterized life in the Lower Mississippi Valley became threatened by new imperial policies, Indians, settlers, and slaves responded with a mix of adaptive and resistant practices. Particularly they employed networks of trade, alliance, and kinship that facilitated the crossing of imperial borders or resistance to the dictates of imperial policies.