Dear readers, last summer I was looking for some more opportunities to publish in the field of Florida History, and so I reached out with a cover letter to a publication that I came across online called Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida. In the following weeks, Casey Blanton, the Editor in Chief of the journal, responded with an opportunity for me to publish a book review of the historian F. Todd Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, published in 2014 by Louisiana State University Press. I agreed and, after about eight months time, that review was published in early April in the second part of a two-part issue based on the iconic, early American naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823). The issue is called Travel and Travels, taking its name from the shortened title of Bartram’s most famous work. The full title is Travels through North & South Carolina, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. The book was originally printed in Philadelphia by James and Johnson in 1791, and it detailed Bartram’s travels among American Indian peoples in the US South between the years 1773 and 1777. Here is an image of the title page to the second edition:
During my initial correspondence with Casey, she told me that the Journal of Florida Studies favors more lengthy book reviews, in contrast to the 700-word reviews that are the bread-and-butter of hard-copy academic journals. The Journal of Florida Studies is, after all, an online publication; and the online platform is known for giving both editors and writers more freedom to compose longer, in-depth pieces. As a result, I took my time in this book review, and I wrote 12 pages. Of course, I wanted to evaluate Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, but I also wanted to use that work as a sounding board for some discussions of a few larger concepts that he addresses. In particular, these concepts are the theoretical framework of “New Frontier History” and the geographical region of the “Gulf South.” I am curious about both of these terms and how they will be received by historians, teachers, and students going forward. Smith’s new work is both an historical synthesis and a case study. As such, it is an ideal work for examining the implementation of these two ideas. Overall, the book is an attempt to construct a New Frontier History of the Gulf South region–an area that is loosely defined as the region of the present-day US South that border on the Gulf of Mexico–during the early-modern era.
I have included a link to my review of Louisiana below, as well as links to the current issue of the Journal of Florida Studies. For those readers who are interested in Florida History, or in getting ideas for how to create their own online journal, FJS is a great resource. Unlike most academic journals today, JFS is truly interdisciplinary. The editors have managed to mix rigorous academic research with poetry, fiction, photography, and other digital arts to create a one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed journal that explores all aspects of Florida as both an idea and a place. As they say on their website, “JFS is an outgrowth of the Center for Interdisciplinary Writing and Research (CIWR) at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Florida.” The journal is “dedicated to the study and appreciation of Florida.”
In closing, I would like to thank Casey Blanton and everyone else at JFS for allowing me to write a book review for their publication. I would also like to thank the historian F. Todd Smith for his hard work in researching and writing Louisiana. Enjoy!