Legitimization of Conquest

Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640 by Patricia Seed

By Steven Knorr

As European powers expanded into the Americas, they used ceremony and ritual to cement their control over newly conquered lands. Perception of colonial ownership differed between the Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.

Ceremonies of Possession by Patricia Seed is a book that explains the rituals and ceremonies European colonizers performed when laying foundation for political authority over the New World between 1492 and 1640. Seed demonstrates that the Europeans did not behave as a monolith, but that each had their own customs and practices when establishing their overseas empires. According to Seed, the symbolic acts taken by the Europeans were based upon familiar gestures, actions, movements or speeches that they already understood[1]. Throughout the book she demonstrates how European legal codes can differentiate how legal possession can be interpreted differently.

Seed begins this discussion with the Portuguese claiming dominion over places they discovered.[2] To the Portuguese, simply discovering land meant they held dominion over it[3]. To the English however, to hold dominion over a territory meant there had to be an intent to stay by establishing houses and boundaries. Queen Elizabeth of England believed that the Portuguese had no dominion over places they simply had found[4]. The English established boundaries by putting up fences and hedges and building gardens. Full-time use of land was an important indicator of property to the English. For this reason, they were able to more easily disregard land usage by the Native Americans, as Native Americans only used theirs on a semi-permanent basis, according to the English laws.

Continue reading “Legitimization of Conquest”


Creoles in Louisiana History

Since their origins in the early 1700s, the Creole people of Louisiana have forged a unique identity for themselves in the American Southeast. 

by Steven Knorr

The world Creole has held many different meanings throughout its history of use. People called Creoles in the Americas adapted to the Louisiana Purchase and came to create a culture and identity of their own in the Southern United States. The word Creole is unique among American nomenclature, referring to a specific group of people with French ancestry in the South and in the Caribbean. The term is not applied to French Canadians, though sometimes the term can be used to refer to Spanish speaking people of mixed racial origin. While today many whites with French ancestry are known as Cajun in the Deep South, people of mixed-racial ancestry with French heritage often exclusively refer to themselves as Creole. The word Creole itself comes from the Portuguese word crioulo which means someone one who was raised in a house, especially a servant. This word was adopted by other European languages and by the 1500s the word crioulo (or the Spanish criollo) would specifically refer to someone “native to the colonies.”

The Creole flag was designed in 1987, and represents the mixed heritage found in Creole culture. French language and tradition (top left), combined with west African ancestry (tri-colors of Senegal and Mali), with Spanish colonialism (Tower of Castile, lower right).

Origins of the Creole People

Louisiana was a difficult place for settlers in the 18th century. French exploration of the Mississippi delta was conducted by La Salle, who in 1682 proclaimed the region south of what is now Memphis Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV. French settlement first began with the creation of Fort Maurepas (modern Biloxi, Mississippi), and the region was soon given colonial governance. In 1722, four years after its founding, the city of New Orleans became the capital of French Louisiana. The governor general ruled both Upper Louisiana (Haute-Louisiane), the modern Midwest, and Lower Louisiana (Basse-Louisiane), the Mississippi drainage basin in what is now Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Settlers came from France, Canada, and the French West Indies.

Continue reading “Creoles in Louisiana History”

Classical Influence in American Government

Ancient Greek Political Thought and the model of Roman Government Influenced America’s Foundations

Nick Richwagen

The founding fathers of the United States  drew upon multiple sources for inspiration during the establishment of American government. The ideas of Enlightenment philosophers were extremely important; Voltaire, Montesquieu, and John Locke were figures whose ideas shaped the new nation. However, the founders drew not only upon Enlightenment  philosophy for political inspiration but also looked towards the cultural heritage of the classical west. Philosophers from classical Greece proposed the separation of powers in government, an idea that the American founders adopted for their new nation. In addition, The Roman Republic  (509-27 BC) served as a direct model of government for the writers of the constitution.  The political thought of the ancient Greek and Roman world profoundly influenced the government of the United States of America.

Content Sections:

I. Plato’s Mixed Government

II. Aristotle: Separation of Powers

III: Polybius and the Roman Republic

IV: Classical Education and Influence in Revolutionary America

V: American Mixed Republican Government

Continue reading “Classical Influence in American Government”