Author Archives: Jessica DeJohn Bergen

About Jessica DeJohn Bergen

I am a second semester History Ph.D student at the University of Texas at El Paso. My first major field is Borderlands; second is U.S.; and final field, well not sure yet. I am thinking empires of North America with a major emphasis on French, Spanish, and British.

Bloodlines and Borderlines in Louisiana: Grappling with Cajun Identity in Borderlands History

This entry is the first in a series that Jessica will be writing for the blog about her personal and professional journey developing and researching her dissertation topic as a doctoral candidate in Borderlands history. She welcomes all constructive feedback in the comments section and hopes to spark a broader conversation about identity and regional borders over the coming months. -ed

About midway through my dissertation proposal defense, Dr. Jeff Shepherd, my dissertation chair at the University of Texas at El Paso, asked: “how does your project fit into Borderlands history.”  I was not surprised by the question, but I remained stumped for some reason and gave a canned response. His question lingered after I became ABD. How does your project fit into Borderlands history, or a problem like it, is a question on every graduate student’s mind who studies in this field.

As to why I am struggling with this question may have to do with my topic, Cajun history, in particular, Cajun identity.  Cajun history begins with the early French Acadian settlements on the tidal flats of present-day Nova Scotia.  Imperial competition grew and in 1755, the British expelled the French Acadia settlers and scattered them throughout British North America, Caribbean, South American coast, the Falkland Islands, or France.  After that, many Acadian exiles residing in France traveled to Louisiana and were welcomed under the Spanish crown hoping to increase the territory’s population. Continue reading

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Categories: Essay Series, Teaching/Professional Development | 1 Comment

Review of War on the Gulf Coast: The Spanish Fight against William Augustus Bowles

I recently published a review of War on the Gulf Coast: The Spanish Fight against William Augustus Bowles on H-Borderlands.  I thought my review of Gilbert C. Din’s book might be interesting to some of our readers here.

During his presidential address to the 2011 Louisiana Historical Association meeting, Gilbert C. Din described a long series of chance encounters and events that led to the “accidental Louisiana historian” he is today. Din’s unintended journey started as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, where he began his training in Latin American historiography, but was uninterested in historian Herbert E. Bolton’s borderlands. Continue reading

Categories: Book and Journal Reviews | 2 Comments

Review and Comment on “Before the Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom in the Canadian-American Borderland”

Gregory Wigmore, doctoral candidate at University of California at Davis, looks at how slaves of British Loyalists traversed both boundaries of nation-state and enslavement to secure manumission.  Wigmore begins his essay with a slave woman and her son escaping enslavement from an attorney in Upper Canada.  Similar to the process and dynamic of Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad, the mother and son board a small boat and flee Sandwich by way of the Detroit River to Detroit.  His compelling introduction, illuminates slave negotiation of the borderlands in order to attain freedom.  Wigmore situates his historical characters and many others in the greater historiography of slavery by suggesting their absence from the historical narrative and asserts that runaway slaves “played a significant role in the hardening of that boundary.” (p.438) Wigmore claims historians have traditionally looked at slave flight from the U.S. to Canada not the reverse.  Continue reading

Categories: Book and Journal Reviews | 3 Comments

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