We discuss the complex and multilayered history of Florida, beginning with the prehistoric peoples that survived in and mastered the tropical landscape, built monumental mound complexes, and formed powerful kingdoms that would eventually confront the first European invaders.
Image: Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Gulf of Mexico
After 1500, Florida becomes a battleground in a new struggle for control of North America; we discuss the repeated doomed attempts by French and Spanish adventurers, from Ponce de Leon to the Huguenot colonists at Fort Caroline, to establish a foothold in Florida, until Spain finally succeeds in creating a lasting European stronghold at Saint Augustine.
We consider the struggles of European colonists and missionaries, indigenous tribes, and African laborers to protect their territories and secure their freedom through two tumultuous centuries of Spanish rule in Florida. From the first arrival of yellow fever, to the construction of an indestructible limestone fortress, to the creation of the first black-led town in America, the Spanish era laid the foundations of a distinctive Floridian society which miraculously persisted and was never conquered by its powerful enemies to the north.
From 1763 to the 1840s, Florida was repeatedly tossed and traded among the British, Spanish, and American empires, as all sorts of adventurers … attempted to establish themselves and exploit the subtropical landscape. Under American rule, two societies take shape in the Florida Territory…
We follow the southward-racing juggernaut of modern Florida, from statehood in 1845 to the 1930s – the insatiable quest of visionaries and megalomaniacs, from Jewish utopians, to slave-driving planters, to evangelical missionaries, to black politicians, to hotel magnates, to messianic cult leaders, to women’s suffragists, to Cuban revolutionaries, to bohemian poets, to impose a sense of order upon the chaotic and unruly wilderness of tropical Florida…