Current Issue Article Abstracts

Fall 2021, Vol. 19.4

• • • • • • • •  


Louisiana Bohemians: Community, Race, and Empire
Ann Ostendorf

In 1720, thirteen deported French Bohemian (Romani) families disembarked in the floundering Louisiana colony. Anti-Bohemian sentiment combined with a growing French Empire in need of able-bodied and reproductive laborers to dislocate these families from their already precarious lives. Over the next century, as Louisiana increasingly developed along new and more intransigent racialized lines, Bohemians navigated and helped construct this emergent racial order in diverse ways. Despite the formation of an initial Bohemian community in eighteenth-century Louisiana, their descendants were eventually distributed into new colonial racial categories. The racial potential of Louisiana Bohemians declined as their actions, especially their sexual choices, determined where they, and their descendants, might racially situate. Both self- and other-ascribed Bohemian identity eventually, if unevenly, lost relevance in French, Spanish and U.S.-controlled Louisiana as other more powerful racialized categories and identities prevailed. This article attends to the history of the colonial Louisiana Bohemian community in order to broaden the historical knowledge of the Romani diaspora, complement the existing scholarship on the Louisiana colony and state, and continue to fine-tune our understandings of racial formation in early America.

The Spanish Ship Affair: Wreck, Salvage, and Contested Legal Authority in Colonial Connecticut
Dominic DeBrincat

In 1752, a wounded Spanish ship—laden with gold, silver, indigo, and other valuable goods—wrecked along the Connecticut coast. This episode initially appeared to be a tale of Samaritans rescuing the crew and safekeeping their payload. Such hospitality yielded to avarice as the loosely guarded cargo was plundered. This article looks closely at the county court in New London, Connecticut, to examine how judges, jurors, and local legal officials shouldered the burdens of securing some sense of justice for Spanish officials and British colonists ensnared in what became known as “The Spanish Ship Affair.” It highlights the importance of local colonial courts in maintaining peace, not only in their respective communities, but also in greater imperial contexts. This was especially important in the wake of ineffective responses from the governor, colonial assembly, and vice-admiralty court—institutions purportedly designed to handle inter-imperial conflicts. Emphasis on this county court reveals a flexible judiciary creatively punishing unredeemable criminals, merciful jurors willing to forgive repentant neighbors, and the resultant long-term changes in Connecticut’s political landscape and its legal approaches to shipwrecks.

Black Tradeswomen and the Making of a Taste Culture in Lower Louisiana
Jessica Blake

Black tradeswomen – both enslaved and free African women and those of African descent – played key economic roles in lower Louisiana during the late eighteenth century. This article uses the life of Jeannette, an enslaved-turned-free negra, as a case study of a women who advertised Atlantic ingredients and cloth through West African customs and framework, and in doing so, popularized Afro-Atlantic material culture in North America. Enslaved in 1749 at the Bight of Benin, West Africa, Jeannette was sent by enslavers to Saint Pierre, Martinique, and then New Orleans, Louisiana, during which time she hired out as a tradeswoman. For much of her life, Jeannette fought against enslavement and negotiated for a place in the marketplace, a space that allowed her more access to autonomy and economic resources than plantation work. Examining personal estate inventories and bills of receipt of residents of French, Spanish, and African descent, it becomes clear that she and others found profit-making opportunities both in the marketplace and in the sale of Afro-Atlantic material cultures.

British Plans to Rescue Convention Army Prisoners in the American Revolution
Sean C. Halverson

This essay examines British plans to recover prisoners of war following the loss of Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne’s army near Saratoga, New York. In October of 1777, Burgoyne signed the Convention of Saratoga with American Major-General Horatio Gates. In the convention, the two generals agreed that Burgoyne’s troops would receive a free passage to Britain after arriving in Boston, Massachusetts. The Continental Congress discarded Gates’s passage pledge, voided the convention, and ordered Burgoyne’s troops incarcerated. This article argues that in planning and attempting to rescue Burgoyne’s soldiers as an army, British Generals Sir William Howe and Henry Clinton modified European methods of warfare. For a year following Saratoga, the two generals covertly worked to recover the prisoners. British officers had never before attempted to rescue thousands of prisoners by force A close reading of senior British and American officers’ wartime correspondence underlines the importance of recovering Convention Army prisoners into active service. Howe and Clinton’s plans are crucial to understanding senior British officers’ efforts to adapt to local conditions and increase their army’s capacity to wage war in North America.

John Quincy Adams and the Ancient Classics, 1794–1817
Robert J. Penella

John Quincy Adams was, among other things, a scholar, poet, and even scientist. He was unusually devoted to the Greek and Latin classics. This article establishes, through his detailed diaries, the agenda of his classical studies from 1794 to 1817, a period during which, with the exception of eight years back in the United States, he served as an ambassador in Europe. His non-classical intellectual interests during this whole period are included in the story, for Adams’s classical interests were only part—but an important part—of an encyclopedic openness to the whole of learning, which was not untypical of his age.