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Spanish Florida

James G. Cusick

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0051
Spanish Florida

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The term “Spanish Florida” is generally applied to the history of Florida from the time of Juan Ponce de León’s exploration in 1513 to the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1821, which transferred Florida to the United States. This general time span has to be adjusted for a brief period of French colonial endeavor in Florida (1562–1565) and for a period of British rule that began in 1763, under provisions of the Treaty of Paris, and that ended in 1781 in the westernmost sections of Florida, following the campaigns of Bernardo de Gálvez during the American Revolution, and in peninsular Florida in 1783, at the conclusion of this war. To make the three centuries of Spanish dominion in Florida more manageable, historians usually partition the colonial era into Exploration (1513–1565), First Spanish Period (1565–1763), and Second Spanish Period (1781–1821). During all this time, the geographical limits of Florida also changed drastically. Original Spanish claims to the area designated the entire American Southeast and the Atlantic seaboard as far north as Newfoundland as part of “La Florida,” a claim depicted on early atlas maps. In the 17th century, Spain maintained this claim rigorously. It eventually acquiesced to French settlement of Mobile and Louisiana, though the boundary with Texas remained in dispute. There was also a brief war with France over possession of Pensacola (1719–1723). Along the eastern seaboard Spain protested English settlement of Virginia in 1607 and attempted to block the founding of Charles Town in 1670. Rival territorial claims on the part of Britain and Spain provoked constant warfare between “La Florida” and the incipient colonies of Carolina and Georgia during the first half of the 18th century. As a result of the French and Indian War, the British acquired Florida and divided it into two colonies. The Florida peninsula became East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine. West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola, comprised what is today the Florida panhandle plus a long strip of territory along the Gulf of Mexico that included modern-day Mobile and Natchez. This political division continued when Spain regained the Floridas in the 1780s. The panhandle and peninsula were only reunited into a single territory under American jurisdiction. For fully half of Florida’s colonial era, Native Americans made up the majority of the colonial population. In the late colonial period, Florida was distinguished by its small population size, in which Seminoles and Creeks, free people of color and enslaved Africans, and immigrants from many places in Europe, lived in close association.

Article.  12513 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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