"Missouri, the French Atlantic, and the Early Republic": Colloquium with Prof. Tangi Villerbu


Understandably, Potosi, Missouri, might not be the first city one associates with the French Atlantic world. As Université de La Rochelle Professor of History Tangi Villerbu showed in his January 28 talk at the Kinder Institute, however, much can be learned about the early republic by examining the connections forged between the western coast of France and what is now the eastern border of Missouri during the early nineteenth century. His particular subject was Ferdinand Rozier, son of a Nantes merchant who, along with Jean Jacques (soon to be John James) Audubon, landed in Philadelphia in 1806 in search of new economic opportunity. Drawn to investments in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, Rozier’s partnership with Audubon, as well as his time on the east coast, was short-lived, and he soon found himself in Ste. Genevieve, MO, surrounded by countrymen: merchant-refugees who had come north from Ste. Domingue, French priests who had fled the Revolution, and, soon after arriving, his nephew, Fernin Desloges. Together, Desloges, Rozier, and their offspring were at the center of a market revolution of sorts in eastern Missouri, purchasing and managing lead mines that integrated Potosi into major transnational trade routes: one running from New Orleans to Philadelphia to New York and another from Louisville to Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. And it wasn’t long before the influence of the Rozier-Desloges network spread into civic life, with Rozier’s grandson running for senate as a free-soil, Bentonian democrat opposed to the extension of slavery into the Western territories.


Tangi Villerbu is an associate professor of history at the Université de La Rochelle (France). His books include La Conquête de l’Ouest. Le récit français de la nation américaine au 19ème siècle (Rennes, 2007), Les missions du Minnesota. Catholicisme et colonisation dans l’Ouest américain, 1830-1860 (Rennes, 2014) and Bande dessinée western. Histoire d’un genre, (Paris, 2015)