Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz

Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz

Antoine-Simon Le Page du Pratz (1695?-1775) [ [ "Memoir of a French Visitor"] ] was an ethnographer, historian, and naturalist who is best known for his "Histoire de la Louisiane" which was published in three volumes in Paris in 1758.

Early Life

He was born either in the Netherlands or France and was raised in the latter country. Serving with Louis XIV’s dragoons in the French Army, he saw service in Germany in 1713 during the War of the Spanish Succession. On May 25, 1718 he left La Rochelle, France, with 800 men on one of three ships bound for Louisiana. He arrived on August 25, 1718. Le Page lived in Louisiana from 1718 to 1734, the first eight of those years at Natchez, Mississippi, where he lived with a Chitimacha woman, learned the Natchez language, and befriended local native leaders. Rather than describing the "manners and customs of the Indians" in the detached, homogenizing fashion of so many other colonial authors, Le Page recorded many pages of the words of his native informants, the Yazoo explorer among them. [ [ "A Native American Scoops Lewis and Clark"] ]

He lived at Natchez from 1720 to 1728, under the colonization scheme organized by John Law and the Company of the West. His familiarity with the local Natchez, and knowledge of their language and customs, is the basis for some of the unique and fascinating parts of his writings. He returned to New Orleans to take an appointment as manager of the Company's plantation, and thereby avoided being killed in the so-called Natchez Massacre of 1729. This uprising, which he described in detail, destroyed the French Fort Rosalie and nearly all the colonists there, and led to the King ending the concession of the Company of the West, and seizing control of the plantation that Le Page du Pratz was managing. [ [ "A Biographical Outline"] ]


Le Page du Pratz waited more than fifteen years after his return to France before he published his experience in Louisiana. The "Memoire sur la Louisiane" was published in the Journal Oeconomique, a Paris periodical devoted to scientific and commercial topics, between September 1751 and February 1753. In 1758 appeared the three octavo volumes of the "Histoire de la Louisiane". Part of the book is devoted to ethnographic description of the native peoples of Louisiana, particularly the Natchez. Other sections describe the history of the colony, from the Spanish and French explorers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through establishment of the French settlements along the Mississippi. In 1763, a partial translation of Le Page du Pratz's work was published in London. The title, "The History of Louisiana", subordinated the former French colony to its English neighbors to the east, and its preface asserted that English "nation may now reap some advantages from those learning from the experience of others, what they do or are likely to produce, that may turn to account." [ [ "A Biographical Outline"] ] Later, Le Page's work was used to guide the Lewis and Clark Expedition. [ [ "Lewis & Clark—Expedition—Supplies"] ]


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