French St. Louis


French St. Louis

Landscape, Contexts, and Legacy

Edited by Jay Gitlin, Robert Michael Morrissey, and Peter J. Kastor

France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization Series

336 pages
9 photographs, 14 illustrations, 2 genealogies, 6 maps, 4 graphs, index


June 2023


$35.00 Add to Cart

August 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2021


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eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2021


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About the Book

A gateway to the West and an outpost for eastern capital and culture, St. Louis straddled not only geographical and political divides but also cultural, racial, and sectional ones. At the same time, it connected a vast region as a gathering place of peoples, cultures, and goods. The essays in this collection contextualize St. Louis, exploring French-Native relations, the agency of empire in the Illinois Country, the role of women in “mapping” the French colonial world, fashion and identity, and commodities and exchange in St. Louis as part of a broader politics of consumption in colonial America. The collection also provides a comparative perspective on America’s two great Creole cities, St. Louis and New Orleans. Lastly, it looks at the Frenchness of St. Louis in the nineteenth century and the present.

French St. Louis recasts the history of St. Louis and reimagines regional development in the early American republic, shedding light on its francophone history.

Author Bio

Jay Gitlin is a senior lecturer in history at Yale University. He is the author of The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion. Robert Michael Morrissey is an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois. He is the author of Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country. Peter J. Kastor is Samuel K. Eddy Professor and a professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of William Clark’s World: Describing America in an Age of Unknowns.


“One of the most refreshing and illuminating aspects of this collection is the inclusion of women not merely as individual characters but as intrinsic parts of the history and historiography. . . . Patricia Cleary’s chapter on fashion is exemplary in portraying St. Louis’s rich economic, political, and cultural history and its connections to far-flung places. . . . Delightful and deeply insightful. Its chapters speak to one another, creating a collection that holds together surprisingly well. One could read the book from cover to cover, finding connections.”—Kathleen DuVal, Missouri Historical Review

“This meticulously edited collection reframes the ongoing conversation on the often-confusing history of a special urban landscape—St. Louis—broadening its diverse meaning and multicultural impact through a model lens by which all early American cities may be profitably studied.”—John Neal Hoover, author of A Nation, a City, and Its First Library: Americana at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years

"[French St. Louis] can foster a better understanding of our present and our future for all of us."—Missouri Life

"This volume is a commendable venture to tell the French story of the founding of interior America. The project's inception during the sestercentennial year of St. Louis's founding yielded fruitful results with the recent publication of this book. A valuable read for American historians."—Dan Shannon, Denver Posse of Westerners

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: A French City in North America
Jay Gitlin, Robert Michael Morrissey, and Peter J. Kastor
Part 1. Fashioning a Colonial Place: St. Louis between Empire and Frontier
1. Empire by Collaboration: St. Louis, the Illinois Country, and the French Colonial Empire
Robert Michael Morrissey
2. Between Obligation and Opportunity: St. Louis, Women, and Transcolonial Networks, 1764–1800
Robert Englebert
3. The Capital of St. Louis: From Indian Trade to American Territory, 1764–1825
J. Frederick Fausz
4. Fashioning Identities on the Frontier: Clothing, Culture, and Choice in Early St. Louis
Patricia Cleary
Part 2. St. Louis and New Orleans: A Regional Perspective
5. You Are Who You Trade With: Why Antebellum St. Louis Industrialized and New Orleans Didn’t
Lawrence N. Powell
6. The Creole Frontier: Free People of Color in St. Louis and along the French Mississippi Corridor, 1800–1870
Andrew N. Wegmann
Part 3. Visualizing Place: New Sources and Resources for Telling the Story of St. Louis
7. Visualizing Early St. Louis
Robert J. Moore Jr.
8. The View from Upper Louisiana: Pierre-Clément de Laussat’s Concerns and Contacts, 1803–1804
John H. Lawrence
Part 4. Maintaining the French Connection of St. Louis
9. Louis Cortambert and l’Esprit français in St. Louis in 1854
Anne Juneau Craver
10. The French Presence in St. Louis Today
Lionel Cuillé
Conclusion: The Founding and Lasting Significance of St. Louis
Jay Gitlin

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