By Robert S. Weddle
There 80 years of territorial competition in which Spain and France alternated from symbiotic alliance to real conflict. The French presence served again and again as a spur to Spanish exploration and cost of the coastal quarter from Tampico to peninsular Florida. France, in the meantime, sought growth on each side of its Mississippi wedge, deftly pushed among the Spanish claims east and west, until eventually a 3rd rival, the English, terminated the French tenure in America.
The French Thorn--sequel to Weddle's Spanish Sea--is greater than a heritage of exploration competition. In crafty prose the writer recreates the drama and pathos of l. a. Salle; the power of Iberville and Escandon; and the sprint and bold of Saint-Denis. he's taking the reader on venturesome sea voyages in wood ships; around the coastal plains with colourful Spanish entradas; and up pristine rivers with the French voyageurs.
Reproductions of twenty French and Spanish maps from the 17th and eighteenth centuries improve Weddle's details. Well-documented and readable, The French Thorn will attract a person attracted to this time and position in historical past, from the formal historian to the exploration enthusiast.
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Extra resources for The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682-1762
Many of the freebooters, says Minet, had sailed into the Gulf five or six times, but none was familiar with La Salle's river. Their report of the Gulf otherwise was discouraging. From October to January the wind usually blew from the north, so strong that it would carry a ship across the Gulf to the Yucatán shoals. In other seasons it blew from the southjust as hazardous for ships approaching the northern coast, for they were apt to be driven upon the lee shore. The northern coast itself had numerous shoals, with swamps extending inland a great distance.
That work, published in 1985, was not originally intended to stand alone, but rather to introduce a study of discovery and exploration spanning three hundred years and embracing the entire Gulf. As the first volume of what now promises to become a trilogy, it provides the antecedents to this and any succeeding volume of the series. While not requisite to an understanding of the present work, Spanish Sea may enhance the enjoyment thereof. Division of the material and the inevitable delay between volumes has caused the project to assume a slightly different shape from the original plan.
5 This erroneous idea was strengthened by his observation that no significant rivers entered his River Colbert from the east. He concluded that the stream course had carried him beyond the mountain range shown on numerous maps of the previous century, including those of Nicolas Sanson de Abbeville (see fig. 1). After visiting the Natchez and Koroa Indians, the explorers traveled in heavy rain, the river still writhing in tortuous meanders. Both La Salle and his followers became disoriented. "6 But the clouds lifted and the river straightened, inclining almost east, then southeast.