Le Page du Pratz and Dumont de Montigny:
Historians of French Lousiana, 1718-1758

 

Site created by Gordon Sayre, Associate Professor of English, University of Oregon
Web Design by Allison Pedrazzi

"I've been studying the Literature of French Colonial America for fifteen years,

and have built this site, with the help of research assistants Nicole Degli-Esposti and
Allison Pedrazzi, as a resource on these two fascinating authors and on the
ethnohistory of the Natchez Indians." ~ ~ Gordon Sayre

Le Page du Pratz
was born around 1695 and in 1718 joined a group of some 800 colonists on a ship from La Rochelle bound for Louisiana. He described himself as an architect with training in mathematics and engineering, but while in Louisiana he also claimed expertise in medicine, collecting specimens of hundreds of native plant remedies, or "simples," for transport to Paris. He also appears to have developed a close relationship with a Chitimacha woman, whomhe was given as a


An early map of lower Louisiana that appeared in Le Page's 1758 book. Note how much of what was dry land in 1750 is water today.

Dumont de Montigny was born in Paris on July 31, 1696, a younger son of an "avocat au parlement de Paris," that is, a prominent magistrate. He was eduated at a Jesuit college, or grammar school, and went into the military. He served in Quebec in 1715-1717, and then sailed to Louisiana in 1719 with a commission as a lieutenant, and responsibility to guard 500 transportees being forcibly sent to the colony. Soon after hisarrival he unwittingly insulted Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, a founder of the colony who was then in his
slave by her father, the tribe's chief, and who later bore him children. In 1720 he moved upstream to Natchez and acquired three large parcels of land from the natives he called not "sauvages" but "naturels." For eight years he lived alongside the Natchez Indians, learned to speak their language, and conversed with their leaders and tribal historians. In 1728 he returned to New Orleans, where Governor Périer pursuaded him to take up management of the Company's plantation, later the "habitation du Roi" in Louisiana. He thus escaped probable death in the rebellion of the tribe he knew so intimately. He returned to France in 1734, and I have no idea what he did for the next 16 years. In 1751-73, however, he published a series of articles about Louisiana in the new Journal Œconomique, a magazine on science and commerce. And in 1758 he revised and expanded this to make his three volume Histoire de la Louisiane. An abridged translation into English appeared in 1763. Click on his signature above for Le Page's homelepage.   first stint as Governor, and thereby began an enmity that he pursued through all his writings. He travelled extensively around Louisiana, from the Arkansas River to New Orleans, Pascagoula and the upper Tombigbee, sometimes serving as an engineer, sometimes in dereliction of his military orders. He lived at Natchez in 1723-24 and 1727 until January 1729. He later participated in an unsuccessful 1736 military expedition led by Bienville against the Chickasaw, longstanding foes of the French. He sailed back to France in 1737, and lived for most of the next ten years in Port Louis, Brittany. In 1747 he composed a long autobiographical memoire, never published, that is held at the Newberry library. 1753 he wrote and published, with the assistance of the Abbé Le Mascrier, the two volume Memoires Historiques sur la Louisiane. Click on his signature above for Dumont's homepage.

Annotated Bibliography of Works by and about Le Page and Dumont

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The following links provide a great deal of information about French Colonial Louisiana: