Final lit review

Calvin Sherwood
10/6/2010
Literature Review

Lit Review

Behind the census figures and maps that document the demographics of Colonial Louisiana, the commentary by historians in secondary literature gravitates to a particular ethnic group and its effects. While most of the literature that discusses that time and period mentions other groups to state their contributions to the colony, they eventually gravitate towards one ethnic group, where they centralize their argument around them. The reasons for this range from personal ties, actual descent of that exact people about which they write, preferred academic research for that group to possibly a negative bias against a group due to contemporary events. These influences help guide the sources into either specific Creole centered or Cajun centered literature, with the interesting exception omission of Spanish centered influence in any of the literature.
Naturally, since Colonial Louisiana was founded by the French, the Creole influence in some of the writings is understandable. However, the focus of sources, like Nathalie Dessens’ scholarly article “The Saint-Domingue Refugees and the Preservation of Gallic Culture in Early American New Orleans”, centers on not the old, original Creoles, but the influx of Creole immigrants from the revolutions in Saint-Domingue. This can be explained as a preferred academic subject for the author Dessens, since her article was published by Louisiana State University, a university more closely associated with the area than most, and she focuses explicitly on this group of unique Creoles, only mentioning other ethnic groups when they interact with the ‘new Creoles’. Another example would be in Brasseaux’s book French, Cajun, Creole, Houma, where of the influx of Creoles from Saint-Domingue received the most attention as the book claims that they preserved Gallic culture from assimilation for at least two more generations. This concentration upon later waves of Creole immigration portrays an obsession with a specific group of French speaking Creoles just after the beginning of ‘American Occupation.’ While they are an influential segment in preserving Creole culture, they are certainly not the only ones. Creoles had lived in the colony since its formation, why do these scholars give them such influence? Since the focus and interest in subject matter and details is what drives these sources, a reason for such speculation on the 1800s Creoles could be that they are recorded more thoroughly under the US census. Since the beginning of US documentation every ten years, actual figures of immigrants became easier to track and scholars could now track exact numbers of incoming migrants and compare the influx from year to year. This ability to track larger population waves made the later Creole migrations more valuable to further research.
The other ethnic group with a large cultural claim on Louisiana is the Acadians, or ‘Cajuns’. As they are a unique ethnic group in America tied closely to Louisiana, they receive considerable attention among historians who have written upon this topic. While they did settle Colonial Louisiana and bolstered the French-speaking population considerably, they did not actually maintain a large influence in the city of New Orleans itself. Nevertheless, Brasseaux states in The Founding of New Acadia, that the Cajuns successfully fought to maintain their culture and identity from the Creoles, whom they viewed as different from themselves. Brasseaux’s concentration on the Acadian cultural identity and its importance is because he himself is Acadian, and therefore has a unique cultural tie that he emphasizes and explores more deeply. The other source entirely dedicated to Cajuns/Acadians is Faulkner’s The Cajuns, which explores the ‘Cajun’ culture and its evolution over time in the Colony. Faulkner’s keen interest in this subject is apparent because he published the book himself in the U.S., which shows perseverance, and then also because he partially dedicated the book to the State of Louisiana, indicating that his love for the area and its culture inspired his research. For all these works written by ‘Cajunphiles’, the cause and inspiration is mostly a unique and sentimental attachment to the culture.
In contrast to the last two groups, the last glaring issue to discuss is the suspiciously large omission of Spanish influence during its reign over the Louisiana Colony. While it is true that New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole were already culturally formed by the transition to being a Spanish colony, but that still does not fully explain why Spanish is so downsized by the collected secondary sources. The only exception is a quick mention to the Spanish bureaucratic system and its introduction of new architecture in Hirsch’s Creole New Orleans; Race and Americanization, which is still admitted in a somewhat offhand and reluctant connotation. Such a small portrayal and description of Spanish contributions can possibly be explained by contemporary events. Other than that, there is almost no mention of any Spanish influence, which itself speaks of some malcontent amidst researching a famously Franco phonic culture, jealously guarding its unique heritage.
In researching the secondary sources for Colonial Louisiana’s demographic trends, it is clear that scholars tend to focus upon one ethnic group and its contributions, rather than compare all cultures as part of the whole. A problem with this ‘Cajunphile’ versus ‘Creolephile’ approach is that it remains hard to find good comparisons of all the cultures mixed together at one point and studying their changes over time. It also groups races together that might be better researched separately, like white Creoles and free black Creoles. Despite all those unanswered questions, at least these studies contribute an enormous amount of information dedicated to certain ethnic cultures found in Colonial Louisiana, which will prove very useful for further research.

Works Cited

Brasseaux, Carl. The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life In Louisiana, 1765-1803. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

Brasseaux, Carl. French, Cajun, Creole, Houma. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2005.

Dessens, Nathalie. “The Saint-Domingue Refugees and the Preservation of Gallic Culture in Early American New Orleans. “ French Colonial History (8). 53-69.Michigan State University Press, 2007.

Faulkner, William. The Cajuns. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1979.

Freiberg, Edna. Bay St. John In Colonial Louisiana 1699-1803. New Orleans: Harvey Press, 1980.

Giraud, Marcel. A History of French Louisiana (1698–1715), tome 5, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1991.

Hirsch, Arnold and Joseph Logsdon, eds. Creole New Orleans; Race and Americanization. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

Moore, John. Revolt In Louisiana; The Spanish Occupation, 1766-1770. Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University, 1976.

Rowland, Dunbar and A.G Sanders. Mississippi Provincial Archives 1729-1740; French Dominion. Jackson: Mississippi Press of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1927.

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