Antonio Acosta, as I observed in my analysis of his Universidad de Sevilla doctoral dissertation upon which this volume is based, is “one of the brilliant stars in the historical firmament.” Along with a number of young Spaniards whose research has been supported by the United States and Spanish governments since the 1970s, Acosta has profited from his study of historical demography with Jacques Dupâquier and Carlos Alvarez Santaló. Indeed, Acosta is given credit by his mentor and major professor, Francisco Morales Padrón, as being the first member of the Departamento de Historia de América at the Universidad de Sevilla to use the university’s computers for research on historical demography.
The results are impressive. By feeding selected data from each of seventy-four padrones, or census accounts, into the computer, he was able to analyze scientifically such aspects of Spanish Louisiana (1763-1803) as mobility of free population within the province; age-sex pyramids of frontier Natchez, Pensacola, and other posts under the general supervision of the governors-general at New Orleans; the sex ratio of men to women, and fecundity, as determined by the number of children per mother in each of several age brackets, the number of persons living in each household, the ratio of married people to the never-married or widows/widowers, and the age, sex, and number of slaves in the population.
The book is divided into three distinct periods, each of which has “general observations” by way of survey: “El inicio del fin colonial” (1763-77); “Los años del cambio” (1778-88); and “Hacia un nuevo orden demográfico” (1789-1803). Of great importance is the chapter of “conclusiones,” which challenges some of the general assumptions concerning Spanish Louisiana based on less-than-adequate sources and used in an era that antedated scientific quantitative analysis.
Acosta includes in his appendixes a critical essay concerning the primary and secondary works on Spanish Louisiana; a brilliant description of his methodology; a sketch map indicating general locations for most of the posts covered; and graphs and charts that demonstrate the points made in the text. The location of each of the census reports he used to provide his raw data would seem of inestimable value to genealogists searching for ancestors who lived in the area during the Spanish colonial period.
The book is handsomely printed and bound in a rich blue leatherlike binding with gold imprints as volume 5 of the Spanish-American “Comité Conjunto para Asuntos Educativos y Culturales,” established to honor the American Bicentennial. Latin Americanists in general, and Borderlands specialists in particular, should benefit by perusal.