JF: What led you to write Adventurism and Empire?
DN: I wrote Adventurism and Empire because of my fascination with colonial adventurism as a phenomenon involving commerce, settlement schemes, and military freebooting across national boundaries. I also realized that there was a need for a detailed and systematic study tracing the transition from British-Spanish rivalry to U.S.-Spanish competition in Louisiana and “the Floridas” during the late eighteenth century.
JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Adventurism and Empire?
DN: Louisiana and Florida were borderland regions characterized by a high degree of geopolitical instability, personal adventurism, and intrigue from the denouement of the Seven Years War through the Louisiana Purchase. British-Spanish rivalry, both before and during the American Revolution, had a profound impact on subsequent U.S.-Spanish competition. Diverse nationalities vied over the control of rivers and pathways linking coastal to interior zones. Southern Indians sought trade goods through Pensacola and Mobile no less avidly than U.S. frontier folk clamored for free navigation on the Mississippi and access to the New Orleans market. Power struggles emerged in which commerce and immigration were as important determinants as war and violence.
JF: Why do we need to read Adventurism and Empire?
Adventurism and Empire shows how the United States emerged as a successor empire to Great Britain through rivalry with Spain in the Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast. Adventurism and Empire charts events in peace and war over four critical decades–from the close of the Seven Years War through the Louisiana Purchase. The story sheds new light on individual colonial adventurers and schemers who shaped history through cross-border trade, settlement projects involving slave and free labor, and military incursions into Spanish and Indian territories.
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
DN: I decided to become an American historian through my undergraduate studies at Columbia University, and through a deeply felt personal connection to our national past. While pursuing my Ph.D. at Cornell University, I was inspired by the late Michael Kammen, one of the foremost American historians of the last half-century.
JF: What is your next project?
DN: My next project is a study of frontier republicanism and settler-Native conflict in the trans-Appalachian West during the late eighteenth century.
JF: Thanks David.
And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author’s Corner