Interpretations and Trends in the Study of the
Spanish Borderlands: THE OLD SOUTHWEST
JACK D. L. HOLMES*
NOT SINCE THE DECADES OF THE 1930'S AND 1940'S HAS THERE BEEN
such a flurry of writing on the Spanish Borderlands as is now
occurring. Historians from both sides of the Atlantic and from Mex-
ico have once again taken up the challenge thrown to them by Herbert
Eugene Bolton. Of particular importance is the shift of interest from
the classic "Southwest," so dear to the hearts of Bolton and his stu-
dents, to a solid emphasis on the "Old Southwest" of the eighteenth
century. Not to be confused with that area of the United States west
of the ooth meridian, the "Old Southwest" includes those areas of
the nation stretching from West Florida to Texas and from the Gulf
of Mexico north to Missouri and the upper South.
Bolton was not the first historian to publish on the Old Southwest
and Louisiana. Several nineteenth-century historians of the Gulf states
made notable contributions to the history of the region, but the qual-
ity of their work leaves much to be desired. Lacking adequate source
materials in Spanish and French, these early historians also suffered
from a lack of historical criticism. Much of their work has needed
reinterpretation by a new generation of historians.
John W. Monette was one of the earliest historians to concentrate
on the history of the Mississippi Valley, and he probably exerted a
beneficial influence on other historians, stirring them to embark on
their own studies of the area." Benjamin L. C. Wailes followed with
a valuable study on early Mississippi, partly based on documents and
partly based on his conversation with people still living who remem-
*Jack D, L. Holmes is professor of history at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
This is a revised version of a paper read at the Southwestern Social Science Association
meeting in Dallas, Texas, March 26, 197o.
1Monette's most important work is History of the Discovery and Settlement of the
Valley of the Mississippi, by the Three Great European Powers, Spain, France, and Great
Britain, and the Subsequent Occupation, Settlement, and Extension of Civil Government
by the United States, Until the Year z846 (2 vols.; New York, 1846). See also his
Observations on the Epidemic Yellow Fever of Natchez, and of the South-West (Louis-
ville, Ky., 1842). For an astute appraisal of Monette's contributions, see Herbert Howard
Lang, "Nineteenth Century Historians of the Gulf States" (Ph.D. dissertation, University
of Texas, Austin, 1954), 1 o-161.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed June 3, 2015.