To the Vast and Beautiful Land gathers eleven essays written by Light Townsend Cummins, a foremost authority on Texas and Louisiana during the Spanish colonial era, and traces the arc of the author’s career over a quarter of a century. Each essay includes a new introduction linking the original article to current scholarship and forms the connective tissue for the volume. A new bibliography updates and supplements the sources cited in the essays.
From the “enduring community” of Anglo-American settlers in colonial Natchez to the Gálvez family along the Gulf Coast and their participation in the American Revolution, Cummins shows that mercantile commerce and land acquisition went hand-in-hand as dual motivations for the migration of English-speakers into Louisiana and Texas. Mercantile trade dominated by Anglo-Americans increasingly tied the Mississippi valley and western Gulf Coast to the English-speaking ports of the Atlantic world bridging two centuries, shifting it away from earlier French and Spanish commercial patterns. As a result, Anglo-Americans moved to the region as residents and secured land from Spanish authorities, who often welcomed them with favorable settlement policies. This steady flow of settlement set the stage for families such as the Austins—first Moses and later his son Stephen—to take root and further “Anglocize” a colonial region.
Taken together, To the Vast and Beautiful Land makes a new contribution to the growing literature on the history of the Spanish borderlands in North America.