The state of Louisiana is located in the south-central part of the United States. It is the 25th largest state by population and the 31st largest by area covering 52,378.13 square miles. The state shares borders with Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. It is the only state in the country with political units known as parishes, which are the same as counties in other states. The state capital of Louisiana is the city of Baton Rouge while the largest city in the state is New Orleans. Louisiana became the 18th US state in the spring of 1812.
Before European exploration, the area was inhabited by various indigenous peoples as evidenced by prehistoric archaeological sites in the state. The native people practiced hunting and gathering in the uplands and coastal prairies and farming in low lying areas.
Hernando de Soto was among the earliest Europeans to arrive on the territory occupied by Louisiana in 1541. Hernando's expedition, however, encountered hostile tribes and did not lay claim to the region.
Interest in the area remained dormant until the 17th century when the French on commercial, religious, and imperial missions established a significant foothold on the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River. Louisiana was claimed in the name of King Louis XIV by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Royal charters for the territory were first granted to Antoine Crozat, a French merchant in 1712, and later to Scottish businessman John Law in 1717, whose company then failed in 1720.
Louisiana became a French colony in 1731. The French initially claimed all the territory on either side of the Mississippi River all the way to the French Canadian territory. The population of European settlers gradually increased to include thousands of Germans who settled close to New Orleans in an area that was known as German Coast.
Louisiana was later ceded to Spain through a secret deal that led to nearly four decades under Spanish Colonial rule after which the territory was handed back to the French in 1800.
The Louisiana Purchase
The French Emperor Napoleon I sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803 which at the time was under the leadership of President Jefferson in what is referred to as the Louisiana Purchase. The acquisition of Louisiana by the United States effectively doubled the size of the country and encouraged westward expansion.
Louisiana was later divided into the Territory of Louisiana which encompassed the vast region drained by the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and the Territory of Orleans.
By 1810, the Territory of Orleans consisted of an estimated 77,000 people which prompted proposals for statehood. On April 30th, 1812, the territory was granted statehood and renamed to Louisiana becoming the eighteen US state.
The separate Louisiana Territory was renamed Missouri Territory and remained an unorganized territory for some time after.
Development of the State
The state of Louisiana remains strategically important to the nation to this day. Its status is further enhanced by its fertile soils and petroleum and natural gas deposits. The development of the state was occasioned by violent internal struggles and territorial disputes that slowed economic growth and crippled political institutions.
During the American Civil War, Louisiana was part of the Confederate states that wanted to uphold slavery. Racial conflict marked the state's development in the period between 1861 and 1865 and reconstruction between 1865 and 1877. The increasing political involvement of African Americans, however, helped the state to move toward a more racially egalitarian society.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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