Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Spanish Borderlands Frontier”


download (1)The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513-1821. By John Francis Bannon. Tucson: University of New Mexico Press, 1984. (Histories of the American Frontier). ISBN: 0-826-303-09-9. Originally published by New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970.

Originally published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1970, I first read Father Bannon’s history of The Spanish Borderlands Frontier while in graduate school in 1980. I recently reread it to see if it still offered a useful overview of the subject. It does, despite the publication of David J. Weber’s excellent The Spanish Frontier in North America (Yale University Press, 1992), which covers the same period and location and should be read in conjunction with Bannon’s work. The Spanish borderlands was first denoted by Herbert Eugene Bolton, the great early twentieth century historian of the Spanish experience in North America, as the region originally settled by Spain but later incorporated into the United States. Bannon was one of his last students and the inheritor of his scholarly mantle.

The Spanish Borderlands Frontier presents a balanced and thorough history of Spanish exploration and settlement from Ponce de Leon’s landing in 1513 to the end of Spain’s North American empire in 1821. It is a magisterial textbook that presents an authoritative account of the Spanish colonial period in North America. It focuses largely on the political, economic, and religious activities of the borderlands, and always explores the relationship of the European conquerors to the Native American population. It takes a largely geographical approach, moving from region to region analyzing the development of the borderlands over time.

Father Bannon’s work is still quite excellent and I applaud the University of New Mexico Press’s decision to keep it in print more than forty years after its original publication.

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