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
Page du Pratz
|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:
The French Ministry of Culture web exhibit "French
Louisiana, 1682-1803" is an excellent introduction to the history
of the colony.
One page in this exhibit reproduces details of two maps attributed to Dumont de Montigny. The first one is a detail of his manuscript map of Fort Rosalie, held with the manuscript at the Newberry Library. The second, of the Tchopitoulas concession, is not actually the work of Dumont.
Prof. Vin Steponaitis of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at UNC-Chapel Hill has created an archives site that collects maps and archival sources on the American South. The maps of Natchez and the Mississippi Valley include many maps by Dumont de Montigny and his contemporaries.
The Provincial Press is a small outfit in Ville Platte, Louisiana that publishes mostly geneaological materials. They do have for sale a little-known report on the Natchez Massacre, and another concerning Pascagoula in 1726, when Dumont lived there.
The Natchez Indians whom Dumont and Le Page knew best were those living in the "Grand" Village, including a war chief named Serpent Piqué, who died in 1725. This village was excavated by Robert Neitzel in the 1960s and 1970s, and is now preserved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
One of the best on-line resources for French colonial history is the Jesuit Relations, a 73 volume edition of the reports of Jesuit Missionaries in Canada and Louisiana, from around 1615 until the early 1700s. Most of the texts concern Canada, but one important one about Louisiana is theaccount of the 1729 Natchez rebellion by Mathurin Le Petit. It appears in vol. 68.