Karen Lynn Paar

Document Type



Sixteenth-century Spaniards believed that “to settle is to conquer,” and they brought this tradition established during the Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Moors to their conquest and colonization of the Americas. The Spaniards’ multi-faceted approach to settlement proved remarkably enduring as shown by the mid-1560s effort of Pedro Menendez de Aviles to claim La Florida, which then included much of the present-day southeastern United States. Within this territory Santa Elena, now known as Parris Island, South Carolina, came into the focus of French and Spanish monarchs as the political and religious battles raging in Europe in the mid-sixteenth century carried over to the Americas. As negotiations failed to resolve who would control La Florida, first Frenchmen, then Spaniards came to occupy the Parris Island site. This dissertation tells the story of the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena (1566-1587) as part of this contest between empires. In doing so it brings the consideration of Spanish efforts to establish an enduring presence in this conflicted region to the level of the struggles and daily interactions among the historical actors who shaped this process: settlers as well as soldiers, women as well as men, and Native Americans as well as Europeans. For whatever the Kings, Queens, and advisors in Europe thought, it was the events in the colony that ultimately determined the success or failure of their imperial claims. By taking this approach, this dissertaton provides a fuller picture of a little-known chapter of “United States” history. It also offers students of Spanish American history a window onto the important, but little-studied, transitional stage between initial contact and the settlement efforts and the more fully documented colonial societies of later years.