Atlantic Loyalties
Americans in Spanish West Florida, 1785–1810

Andrew McMichael

National loyalty on the periphery of the Spanish empire

Reviews

"One of the most impressive achievements of Atlantic Loyalties is to establish a road map for studying West Florida in particular and the southern borderlands in general. McMichael offers an important counterpart to the standard narrative of the system of British slavery that began in the upper South before heading South and West. Instead, we learn about a more complex and dynamic process through which enslavement and freedom, plantation agriculture and frontier settlement, regional connections and international tensions overlapped to shape life in North America."
—Peter Kastor, author The Nation's Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America

"McMichael's book is a powerful argument for writing borderlands history from the ground up, concentrating on what actually happened in a given place and fitting that place into an Atlantic framework. The story of Anglo-American expansion into the Spanish borderlands has traditionally been told as the inevitable triumph of English liberty over Spanish tyranny. In this pathbreaking study, McMichael shows that government in the Baton Rouge district of West Florida was enlightened and mild and that Anglo settlers, whose allegiance was more practical than patriotic, were content to live under Spanish law as long as Spain was able to grant lands and protect property."
—Amy Turner Bushnell, author of Situado and Sabana: Spain's Support System for the Presidio and Mission Provinces of Florida


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Description
Integrating social, cultural, economic, and political history, this is a study of the factors that grounded--or swayed--the loyalties of non-Spaniards living under Spanish rule on the southern frontier. In particular, Andrew McMichael looks at the colonial Spanish administration’s attitude toward resident Americans. The Spanish borderlands systems of slavery and land ownership, McMichael shows, used an efficient system of land distribution and government patronage that engendered loyalty and withstood a series of conflicts that tested, but did not shatter, residents’ allegiance. McMichael focuses on the Baton Rouge district of Spanish West Florida from 1785 through 1810, analyzing why resident Anglo-Americans, who had maintained a high degree of loyalty to the Spanish Crown through 1809, rebelled in 1810.

The book contextualizes the 1810 rebellion, and by extension the southern frontier, within the broader Atlantic World, showing how both local factors as well as events in Europe affected lives in the Spanish borderlands. Breaking with traditional scholarship, McMichael examines contests over land and slaves as a determinant of loyalty. He draws on Spanish, French, and Anglo records to challenge scholarship that asserts a particularly “American” loyalty on the frontier whereby Anglo-American residents in West Florida, as disaffected subjects of the Spanish Crown, patiently abided until they could overthrow an alien system. Rather, it was political, social, and cultural conflicts--not nationalist ideology--that disrupted networks by which economic prosperity was gained and thus loyalty retained.

Page count: 240 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9

 

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Andrew McMichael is an associate professor of history at Western Kentucky University. McMichael is also the author of History on the Web and an assistant editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 30.