From 1513 onward, Spanish and French explorers and would-be colonizers had attempted to establish a permanent European settlement in “the lovely, deadly land of Florida.”
It would take more than half a century, however, before this ambition would be realized by Pedro Menéndez de Aviles of Spain. Menéndez came to Florida in pursuit not only of wealth, but also of the French Lutherans under Rene de Laudonniere, who had built a settlement called Fort Caroline near what is today Mayport, Florida, in 1564.
After eliminating the French Protestant presence and taking over their fort in September of 1565, Admiral Menéndez and Chief Seloy of the Florida Timucua Indians met one another at what is today St. Augustine. Menéndez and his group of some 800 colonists (including 26 women and an unknown number of African slaves) made their first settlement at Seloy’s town, and used Seloy’s council house as the first Spanish fort.
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The following resources include only a few of the many works that have been written on these topics. We have chosen those you see here because they are relatively recent (or have continued as enduring classics), they are published in easily accessible formats, and they are generally non-technical in their presentation. These sources will also lead you to many more popular and scholarly publications on these topics.
Most of these resources can be found through your public library. Other useful sites for locating many of these readings include the University Press of Florida and the St. Augustine Historical Society. For a complete list of archaeological sources, visit the Florida Museum Historical Archaeology site.
Gannon, Micheal. 1996 First European contacts. in The new history of Florida. edited by M. Gannon. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. pp. 16-39.
Notes: An excellent overview of the Spanish explorers and colonizers in Florida, preceding the establishment of St. Augustine.
Lyon, Eugene. 1976 The enterprise of Florida. The University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
Notes: The classic and most comprehensive source on Pedro Menéndez and the establishment of Spanish Florida.
Manucy, Albert C. 1965 Florida’s Menéndez. Captain General of the Ocean Sea. St. Augustine: St. Augustine Historical Society.
An accessible and entertainingly written- but thoroughly researched- biography of Pedro Menéndez, and account of the establishment of La Florida.
McGrath, John. 2000 The French in early Florida: in the eye of the hurricane. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Notes: A detailed recounting of the French expeditions to Florida in 1564, and the brief, but intense and decisive conflict with the Spanish at St. Augustine.
Milanich, Jerald T. and Susan Milbrath, (Editors). 1989 First Encounters: Spanish explorations in the Caribbean and the United States,1492-1570. Edited by J. Milanich and S. Milbrath. Ripley P. Bullen Monographs in Anthropology and History 9:119-134. Florida Museum of Natural History. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Notes: Several essays in this richly-illustrated collection cover early exploration and colonization of Florida.