Complexion of Empire in Natchez
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Complexion of Empire in Natchez

Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands

Title Details

Pages: 328

Illustrations: 5 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 02/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5850-5

List Price: $62.95


Pub Date: 02/01/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5851-2

List Price: $62.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5852-9

List Price: $36.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Complexion of Empire in Natchez

Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands

How ideas about race influenced the governance of plantation colonies

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In Complexion of Empire in Natchez, Christian Pinnen examines slavery in the colonial South, using a variety of legal records and archival documents to investigate how bound labor contributed to the establishment and subsequent control of imperial outposts in colonial North America. He examines the dynamic and multifaceted development of slavery in the colonial South and reconstructs the relationships among aspiring enslavers, natives, struggling colonial administrators, and African laborers, as well as the links between slavery and the westward expansion of the American Republic.

By placing Natchez at the focal point, this book reveals the unexplored tensions among the enslaved, enslavers, and empires across the plantation complex. Most important, Complexion of Empire in Natchez highlights the effect that different conceptions of racial complexions had on the establishment of plantations and how competing ideas about race strongly influenced the governance of plantation colonies.

The location of the Natchez District enables a unique study of British, Spanish, and American legal systems, how enslaved people and natives navigated them, and the consequences of imperial shifts in a small liminal space. The differing—and competing—conceptions of racial complexion in the lower Mississippi Valley would strongly influence the governance of plantation colonies and the hierarchies of race in colonial Natchez. Complexion of Empire in Natchez thus broadens the historical discourse on slavery’s development by including the lower Mississippi Valley as a site of inquiry.

Complexion of Empire asks big questions in the study of a small geographical area to expand the reader’s understanding of racially based slavery in the Americas.

—Kenneth Aslakson, H-NET Early Americas

Pinnen has created a richly nuanced text, especially with his examination of Natchez under Spanish rule. . . . Not only does Natchez present an intriguing case study due to the rapid pace with which it changed imperial powers, as Pinnen notes, but the ways in which it matched and diverged from its colonial sister, New Orleans, are particularly illuminating for the relationship of law, race, and slavery on the 'frontier.'

—Robert Murray, Early American Literature


Best Book on Mississippi History, Mississippi Historical Society

About the Author/Editor

CHRISTIAN PINNEN is a 2022-2024 Bright Institute Fellow at Knox College and a professor of history at Mississippi College. He codirects the African American studies program there, and his research and teaching focus is on the history of race, slavery, and the law in the American colonial borderlands. His is the coauthor of Colonial Mississippi: A Borrowed Land with Charles Weeks.