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136 Canadian Review of American Studies which are more straightfmward historical reconstructions makes this book well worth reading. Len Wilson Universityof Alberta •••••• Carl. A. Brasseaux. Acadian to Cajun: Transfomiation of a People, 1803-1877. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. Pp. xiv+ 252. Brasseaux provides an insightful account of the transformation of the Acadians, who immigrated to Louisiana, into the Cajun people. His accomplishment is particularly notable because of the dearth of written records produced by or for the Acadians in Louisiana. He draws rather on an array of civil parish records, church registers and archives, census reports, court records, and election returns to weave a story of demographic growth and both cultural assimilation and differentiation. Brasseaux argues that rather than constituting a monolithic group, the Acadians underwent a process of socioeconomic differentiation during the antebellum period. The upwardly mobile segment of the Acadians assimilated with successful segments of the Creole population, the descendants of Europeans who had settled in Louisiana. At the same time, the petites habitants, or subsistence farmers, exhibited a distinct folk life adapted to the conditions of Louisiana and laid the foundations for the distinct Cajun lifestyle. Class lines, however, were not rigid. Vertical economic and social movement, and hence assimilation into the broader Creole community, did occur. Brasseaux convincingly asserts that the Civil War and its aftermath had a decisive impact on the Acadians of Louisiana. During the war, the central area of Acadian settlement sank into anarchy. Acadian farmers and small holders were devastated by the collapse of the agricultural economy. In addition, they were subjected to requisitions from the Confederates, looting by Confederate deserters or Jayhawkers, and pillaging by Union forces. At the end of the war, with livestock gone and tools and property destroyed, many were unable to retain their land. Land values plummeted and loans were unobtainable. Land was seized for delinquent mortgages or taxes. The number of landless Acadian labourers and tenants skyrocketed. Acadiana was, in effect, thrown into a depression which endured until the Second World War. As a result of this econ- BookReviews 137 omic onslaught, upward mobility ceased. Those whose holdings and wealth enabled them to survive, and eventually to recover, increasingly separated themselves from the impoverished Acadian masses. This elite now assimilated to the dominant Anglo culture. To be Acadian, derisively labelled "Cajun" by the Anglos,was to be impoverished, uneducated, and morally suspect, in effect, "non-American." It was, according to Brasseaux, during the anarchical aftermath of the Civil War, when vigilantism was endemic, that lethal violence, hitherto foreign to Acadian culture, became widespread. Violence and abuse of alcohol, which developed with economic desperation and social disorientation, became at this time ascriptions of Cajun culture. It was also during this period, when poor Acadiansjoined freed Blacks as tenants and workers on sugar-cane plantations, that African musical traditions and cooking were assimilated by poor Acadians to produce the melange known today as Cajun. Though the Civil War and its aftermath do seem to have had a significant impact upon the Acadians, Brasseaux probably exaggerates its contribution to the transformation of the Acadians into the Cajun people. He perhaps over emphasizes the significance of those Acadians who, during the antebellum period, were able to move into the ranks of the planting class and, as part of the process, assimilate to Creole culture. Though he takes issue with the notion of the Second Expulsion, an involuntary expulsion of petites habitants from the rich land fronting the Mississippi River, he admits that, in 1860, fifty-one percent of the Acadian inhabitants of Terregonne Parish, primarily people displaced from the river parishes, did not own any land. Regardless of the Civil War, the cultural differentiation of the bayou Acadians from the assimilating planters would have produced a Cajun people. Brasseaux's style is clear and imminently readable. However, at several points, the book becomes annoyingly repetitive. The long digression into white resistance to the Reconstruction government of Louisiana is somewhat extraneous to the author's main theme. Though he points out that many Acadians participated in the White League, he docs not indicate to what degree these vigilantes were drawn from the assimilating elite, rather than the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 136-138
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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