Discovering Florida:
First-Contact Narratives from Spanish Expeditions along the Lower Gulf Coast

Edited and translated by John E. Worth


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"Gives voice to a period in U.S. history that remains virtually unknown, even to specialists in the field."--J. Michael Francis, coauthor of Murder and Martyrdom in Spanish Florida

"With these transcriptions and translations, Worth provides an important service to ethnohistorians, archaeologists, and others who share an interest in the Spanish colonial explorations of the greater Southeast."--Mariah F. Wade, author of Missions, Missionaries, and Native Americans

"A model for how to handle important primary sources. The historical introduction is a treasure in its own right."--Amy Turner Bushnell, author of Situado and Sabana: Spain's Support System for the Presidio and Mission Provinces of Florida


Florida's lower gulf coast was a key region in the early European exploration of North America, with an extraordinary number of first-time interactions between Spaniards and Florida's indigenous cultures. Discovering Florida compiles all the major writings of Spanish explorers in the area between 1513 and 1566.

Including transcriptions of the original Spanish documents as well as English translations, this volume presents--in their own words--the experiences and reactions of Spaniards who came to Florida with Juan Ponce de León, Pánfilo de Narváez, Hernando de Soto, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. These accounts, which have never before appeared together in print, provide an astonishing glimpse into a world of indigenous cultures that did not survive colonization. With introductions to the primary sources, extensive notes, and a historical overview of Spanish exploration in the region, this book offers an unprecedented firsthand view of La Florida in the earliest stages of European conquest.

John E. Worth is associate professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida. He is the author of The Timucuan Chiefdoms of Spanish Florida, volumes I and II, and The Struggle for the Georgia Coast.
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Drawing from the 1513-1569 era, Worth transcribes and translates primary sources which highlight the richness of the source base of the lower gulf coast in terms of ethnographic information, first contact experiences, and Spanish views of Florida’s indigenous peoples. . . .an important contribution to the scholarship not only in the transcriptions and translations of the documents, but also for his historical introduction to the work, which. . . .offers one of [the] most important and frequently forgotten lessons of the region: that conquest is not evitable.-- Florida Historical Quarterly

Successfully contributes to the corpus of first-contact studies. . . . The reader gleans a better understanding of the motives and goals of the Spanish as well as the responses and ethnographic dimensions of the native tribes in the region.-- Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture

Worth provides a simple but clear overview of Florida during the early sixteenth century, [and] effectively contextualizes the creation of documents related to the aforementioned expeditions.-- Journal of Southern History

Excellent. . . . Highly recommended for those who are interested in early contact history, the connections between Florida and the Caribbean . . . and the history of the Indians of the Southeast.-- Hispanic American Historical Review

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