The Worlds of the Acadian Diaspora

The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. … The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.

—Deuteronomy 28:25, 28

Universal truths are uncommon. But this may well be one: to be torn away from familiar places and people is to know terror. Exiled from first-century Rome to the remote Black Sea port of Tomis, the poet Ovid lamented that his dreams had become “tortures,” dark visions of barbarian attacks, enslavement, or, worst of all, “my friends, and my dear wife distorted, disappearing, the wounds of our separation torn open again.”1 For those uprooted en masse and scattered, such horrors crept all too readily into waking hours. “As long as I have lived,” exclaimed Shem Tov Ardutiel, a medieval chronicler of Jewish expulsions in western Europe, “I have been in the grasp of unrest, pursued by shame, wandering, isolated, set apart from companions, made strange to brothers.”2The modern era has produced much, much more of the same. Dispersed by famine, slavery, war, and racial, ethnic, or religious scapegoating, victims know well the panic endured by the Israelites “removed … into all the kingdoms of the earth.”3

The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible from the fourth century BCE, uses διασπορά to express this last, most alarming of Jehovah’s punishments. It means “diaspora,” a word that might be rendered into plainer English as “to sow abroad,” and which has come to stand for the dispersal of people belonging to one nation, culture, or place of origin. Although the term once referred exclusively to events in Jewish history, most scholars now recognize that there have been many diasporas, each a reflection of the era in which it unfolded.4 This book tells the story of one such diaspora, and of the long-forgotten eighteenth-century world it illuminates.

French-speakers call it the grand dérangement, a name that captures the terrible richness of the events reconstructed in the pages that follow. Dérangement translates to “upheaval,” “disorder,” or simply “trouble,” all of which accurately describe a series of events that began in the fall of 1755 on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Ringed, then as now, by tide-washed rock arches, green meadows, and endless stands of pine, the bay’s natural beauty belied its standing as a bloody friction point between the North American empires of Great Britain and France. To the south and east lay Nova Scotia, a peninsular province ruled by a British government at Halifax on the Atlantic coast. To the north and west, in what is now New Brunswick, was territory claimed by France as a vestige of the dismembered colony of Acadia. Arching across these contested boundaries was a diverse population of Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, and Maliseet natives, along with about fifteen thousand Acadians, descendants of seventeenth-century French migrants, who farmed, fished, and traded in villages hugging the bay’s tidal inlets.5 Wedged between two bristling military powers for generations, the Acadians had taken an idiosyncratic political position: they proclaimed neutrality. The mid-eighteenth century, however, was an unusually bad time for fence-sitting.6

Beginning in August 1755, on the brink of what would become the Seven Years’ War, a combined force of British regulars and Massachusetts volunteers stormed through the Bay of Fundy’s settlements, executing orders to capture and deport every last Acadian they could lay hands on. The campaign succeeded. Within three years, Anglo-American troops had almost emptied the region of Acadian inhabitants, seemingly annihilating a colonial society whose origins predated those of Plymouth and Jamestown. It was an “upheaval” that struck even some of its perpetrators as “sumthing shocking.”7 As for the Acadians, they endured dérangement of a different sort as well. The word also refers to mental agitation—the “madness” with which the God of the Old Testament cursed those He dispossessed in the first diaspora. Wrenched from home and separated from neighbors, spouses, and children, Acadians experienced psychological suffering to match their physical hardships. Their lot, declared a shattered exile dumped on Boston’s docks late in 1755, “was the hardest … since our Saviour was upon the earth.”8

For many Acadians, though, the hardest was yet to come. In the thirty years after 1755, refugees from the Bay of Fundy turned up in a stunning range of farflung places. These included port cities of both British North America and the British Isles, France’s colonies in the Caribbean and on the South American coast, the Falkland Islands, the uncultivated plains, windswept islands, and urban tenements of western France, the river valleys of eastern Canada, and Spanish Louisiana, where their descendants would eventually be known as Cajuns.9 Had more radical plans come to fruition, this list of destinations might have included farms in the bone-dry Sierra Morena of Andalusia, the climatically mismatched islands of Corsica and Jersey, a French forest owned by thenonagenarian ex-king of Poland, Ile-de-France (now Mauritius in the Indian Ocean), and the “central mass of the Antarctic continent,” allegedly discovered by a French seafarer in 1773.10 Wherever Acadians actually went, poverty and insecurity followed. Writing in the early 1770s, a handful of exiles in the French port of Saint-Malo summed up their pitiful state in a letter to a powerful figure at Versailles. “We are nothing,” they told him.11



Yet histories of the grand dérangement have emphasized continuity, persistence, and a happy ending. For, seen from one angle, the Acadians’ stopovers in the odd locations inventoried above are little more than brief, unpleasant interludes. Splintered by the violence of 1755, Acadian society seemed to reconstitute itself by instinct over the next two generations, with each “broken fragment of the former community” moving toward a broader, more lasting reunion.12 Slowly and tortuously, loved ones found each other again, crossing oceans and continents to gather in villages that resembled, save for a few environmental variations, those they had left behind in Nova Scotia—especially in southwestern Louisiana, where hundreds of Acadians settled beginning in the mid-1760s, and on rivers and streams in present-day New Brunswick, where those who managed to evade the raids of the 1750s established settlements on the ragged margins of British Canada. These areas remain centers of Acadian (or Cajun) life even today.13 In the face of such tenacity, the Acadians’ North American, Caribbean, South Atlantic, and European voyages tend to come off as obstacles that merely reinforced their stubborn particularity and cemented their common desire to lock arms and re-create a lost world.14

This book, however, suggests another way of thinking about lost worlds and the Acadian diaspora. The narratives cobbled together here reveal that the dislocations and destinations of the grand dérangement mattered a great deal. Indeed, the Acadians’ most gut-wrenching decisions in exile—to forge new associations or renew old bonds, to adopt new practices or cling to old ways—were informed by forces beyond the cultural identities they may have shared, or the social cohesion their bayside villages may have fostered in the decades before 1755. The communities they built and abandoned in distant places were not attuned solely to the Acadians’ inner desires, but also responded to the harsh imperatives of a vast market for colonial labor. Reaching from Europe toward the New World and into the unknown, this market boiled up out of transformations that shook Atlantic empires in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War.

The story of the Acadian diaspora, then, serves to resurrect not one but two lost worlds, and to show the depth of their entanglement. The first, of course, is the face-to-face world the Acadians made as they shuttled from place to trying place—a world of loss, change, and, frequently, malice among onetime compatriots, all of which confronted exiles as they strained to tailor themselves to suit the demands of the powerful, people-moving states that surrounded them. The second is the wide-ranging world of imperial experimentation that flourished during the 1750s, 1760s, and 1770s—a world that made and remade Acadians even as it was, in part, made and remade by them.

No less than histories of the grand dérangement, histories of empire in the mid-eighteenth century have, understandably and often unintentionally, looked to the future. The one-sided outcome of the Seven Years’ War encourages as much. For all nations involved, the conflict was a terrible burden. On battlefields from Pennsylvania to Prussia to the Philippines, fighting drained coffers across Europe while killing untold thousands of soldiers, sailors, and civilians. Then, with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, hostilities ended in one of the largest, most abrupt transfers of territory anyone could recall. For their part, the defeated French relinquished all of their North American lands, ceding New France and the disputed Ohio Valley to Great Britain and Louisiana to Spain (via the semisecret Treaty of Fontainebleau); the British also picked up East Florida from the Spanish, as well as French holdings in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, West Africa, and India. By almost any standard, the peace of 1763 was a severe blow to Louis XV’s once menacing empire and a great boon to the British.

The French monarchy, the usual narrative runs, responded to all of this by giving up on overseas expansionism, turning instead toward domestic issues and obsessive plotting against the “new barbarians” across the English Channel.15 The British, of course, tried to address their war debt and the expense of ruling so many new subjects by imposing new duties and taxes on old colonists, an ill-considered policy that triggered the rupture that would become the American Revolution—or, as the arms-funneling French understood it, sweet revenge on their rivals. These high-stakes, nation-building events have transfixed scholars ever since, and the years immediately after 1763 have all too often been reduced to a prelude, the first set of links in a causal chain leading to the modern era of republican government on both sides of the Atlantic.16

Seeing things through the eyes of castoffs such as the Acadians, however, can help uncouple our understanding of this remarkable period from what came next. For example, as the British took to the streets to celebrate the Treaty of Paris, the French refused to abandon their imperial ambitions. In fact, the shock of 1763 triggered an outburst of colonial schemes aimed at shoring up what remained of the French Empire, especially the Caribbean islands of Saint-Domingue, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, along with Cayenne, a hive of hardscrabble plantations and fortifications on the border of Portuguese Brazil. More expansively, France’s numerous “project men” eyed new imperial venues, looking at once to the edges of the mapped world and within the kingdom itself for opportunities, lands, and resources that might revive the patrie’s fortunes.17 Across the Channel, postwar officials in London waded through their own deluge of proposals, all designed to secure, make profitable, and above all populate the newest bits of the crown’s overseas dominions. The two enemies, one swollen in victory, the other shrunken in defeat, had something in common after 1763: suddenly both were desperate for work-roughened, loyal, and transportable settlers, preferably in bulk.

The realities of postwar imperialism, then, generated a superheated demand for labor that engrossed officials in London and Paris and shaped the way states did business as far afield as Madrid, Berlin, and Saint Petersburg. Crucially, statesmen and entrepreneurs in many of these places had, by the early 1760s, grown suspicious of African slavery’s role as the main engine of Europe’s imperial economy. Not that they endorsed abolition, or really considered forgoing the sugar, coffee, and tax revenue that flowed from plantations into metropolitan mouths and treasuries. Indeed, at midcentury the institution enjoyed broad-based if at times resentful support in both Great Britain and France.18 But the Seven Years’ War had shown just how treacherous both the enslaved and their masters could be in moments of crisis.

Take, for example, Tacky’s Revolt. Emboldened by the disorderly comings and goings of British troops and spurred on by wartime food shortages, hundreds of slaves rose up in the northern and western parishes of Jamaica between April 1760 and October 1761. Led by the charismatic, shamanistic Tacky, the rebels killed dozens of whites and brought the Jamaican economy to a standstill before being defeated by two regiments of regulars, the local militia, and, most remarkably, black guerillas culled from the maroon communities of the island’s interior.19

The French had wartime predicaments of their own. In 1757 and 1758, a rash of strange deaths swept across the sugar plantations surrounding Cap Français, the largest city in the colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Estimates and explanations varied, but authorities ultimately concluded that dozens of whites, as many as seven thousand slaves, and ten thousand head of livestock had succumbed to poisons administered by François Makandal, an African herbalist turned runaway slave, and his “masses of faithful blacks” who worked unnoticed in kitchens and fields throughout Saint-Domingue.20 Makandal died at the stake in 1758, but like Tacky’s revolt, his “conspiracy” haunted the Caribbean for years. Not accounting for disruptions in trade, contemporaries figured that Jamaica had lost £100,000 in capital and property to the uprising of 1760, while the French king paid former owners 600 livres for each accused poisoner executed in Saint-Domingue.21 More discouraging still, the actions of black insurgents actually provedlesscostly than those of their masters. In 1759, for example, the planters of Guadeloupe surrendered the island to the British navy after mounting a token resistance; in 1762, the rich inhabitants of Martinique did the same, cheerfully sacrificing the king’s property to safeguard their own. “Less attached to their reputations than to their wealth,” these tropical subjects provided a bracing illustration of slavery’s political limitations in a world of belligerent empires.22

All of these characters made Acadians look awfully good. They were, wrote one advocate of a renewed, expanded French Empire in 1763, “the kind of men most proper to found a flourishing colony.”23 And in lieu of disorderly slaves and their spineless masters, French, Spanish, and even British authorities tried to rope Acadians into doing just that.

To be sure, the Acadian diaspora speaks to us of a disturbing injustice, and of the men, women, and children who suffered the “astonishment of heart” that has always gone together with such things. But it also traces the outlines of something at once larger and more particular: an eighteenth-century moment of creativity in which the fashioning of more just, efficient, and muscular empires seemed not just possible but inevitable. But like so many other inevitabilities, this one proved unreachable, and thus forgettable. It is, however, inscribed—painfully and deeply—in the lives of the Acadians whose struggles fill these pages.

This is not, of course, the first book to connect the sensibilities of Acadian exiles to the extent of their journeys.

That genre’s best-known example dates back to the fall of 1838, when an Episcopalian clergyman named Horace Conolly told the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne a story as they took a long walk through Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne brooded over its dramatic possibilities but decided to pursue other themes: “It is not in my vein,” he concluded. Two years later, however, he goaded Conolly into telling the tale again, this time at the Cambridge home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Overcome by Conolly’s fever-soaked conclusion, Wadsworth pounced. Extracting a promise from Hawthorne not to “treat the subject in prose,” he announced his intention to attempt an epic poem. After years of delay, eighteen months of writing, and dozens of drafts, Longfellow finished inFebruary 1847. Published later that year, the final product was called Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie.24

Although modern readers often balk at Longfellow’s saccharine sentimentalism, Evangeline remains an affecting portrait of the geographical scope and psychological toll of the grand dérangement. The protagonists, Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse, were virtuous young Acadians raised in what the author called Nova Scotia’s “forest primeval.” Like their neighbors in the village of Grand Pré, they wanted nothing more than to get married and mind their own business. In 1755, however, as Anglo-American marauders knifed through Acadian country, the pair became separated in the chaos. Tragically, Evangeline and Gabriel ended up aboard different transport ships, which in turn deposited them in different Anglo-American ports on the Atlantic seaboard. Longfellow did not specify destinations but allowed (accurately enough) that Acadians struggled for survival from “the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannahs.”25

Evangeline started looking for Gabriel immediately, picking up a trail of sightings and rumors that extended for thousands of miles into the American interior. After a near miss on the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana, she tracked him to the presidio town of Los Adayes in present-day Texas, but remained two steps behind as Gabriel headed northeast toward the Ozarks, struck out across the Nebraska plains, and ventured deep into the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. He doubled back to hunt on the Saginaw River in Michigan, but Evangeline found only his abandoned cabin. Graying, tired, and finally resigned to solitude, she became a “Sister of Mercy” in post-Revolutionary Philadelphia, making nighttime rounds “where disease and sorrow in garrets languished neglected.” Then, in 1793, a yellow fever outbreak devastated the city. As Evangeline ministered to the sick and dying in an overcrowded Quaker almshouse, she stumbled, at last, upon a skeletal, sweat-stained Gabriel. He died in her arms. Contented, she died, too, and while Philadelphians shuffled by their unmarked graves unknowingly, the descendants of Acadian exiles preserved their story for generations to come.26

Longfellow’s narrative packs an emotional punch even today, Romantic-era verbiage notwithstanding. His words proved doubly powerful for American audiences in the mid-nineteenth century. After all, Evangeline’s pursuit of her Gabriel took readers on a tour of an American empire in the making. The Acadians tramped through Louisiana, acquired from the French in 1804 but still something of a mystery to northerners: Texas, over which the United States and Mexico waged war even as Longfellow wrote; and the Rocky Mountains, probed in the 1840s by fur trappers, Mormon outcasts, and the land-grabbers and gold-diggers on the Oregon Trail.27

In one sense, Longfellow’s poetry prefigures the Janus-faced theme of this book—the role of Acadians in building empires, and the role of empires in transforming Acadians. But in ways that echoed the concerns of its day, Evangeline turned the grand dérangement inside out, repurposing an eastward-leaning, transatlantic diaspora to evoke westward-facing, continental expansionism. And for all the sympathy they won for the Acadians, Longfellow’s saintly characters helped perpetuate the notion that exiles coped with dérangement in all of its forms by trying to turn back time, restoring all things as they once were.

The Acadian Diaspora, of course, was not written to debunk Longfellow, or to refute the many fine histories informed by his work. Instead, it seeks a reorientation, a new take on those same vivid elements that captivated the poet all those decades ago. Another muse, one not quite so heavenly as Evangeline Bellefontaine, might help chart the way forward—which brings us to Achille Gotrot, the last in a line of Acadian exiles whose experiences best parallel the trajectory of this book.

The very real Gotrot (pronounced go-tro, and sometimes spelled Gautreaux or Gautreau) differed from the fictional Evangeline in nearly every way. But his story, and not hers, might easily have become Longfellow’s introduction to the grand dérangement. For in 1840, the year Horace Conolly told Longfellow the tale that would become Evangeline, news of Gotrot’s fate buzzed among the ship’s captains and sailors who frequented Boston’s port. Less than a mile from that port sat Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church, in whose rectory lived Horace Conolly. Had Conolly’s ears pricked up around the crews of the Massachusetts whalers Cavalier and Rebecca Sims, both recently returned from the South Pacific, he could have picked up the whole, sordid account. It was like something out of a novel.

In 1838, Gotrot, captain of the French whaler Jean Bart, had docked his ship off the North Island of New Zealand. He then descended belowdecks and shot himself in the temple, despondent over the elusiveness of South Seas spermaceti. His men, apparently unmoved by the suicide (“They still don’t know who’s boss,” Gotrot had grumbled earlier in the voyage), dumped the corpse overboard and then made the five-hundred-mile journey to the Chatham Islands. They were then killed by a group of Moriori warriors who attacked the Jean Bart after a round of trading gone wrong. The French ship L’Héroine stumbled upon the Jean Bart’s charred hulk a while later, finding only “yards broken on the rocks, pulleys, rudder hinges, the ship’s bell,” and a single letter addressed to Achille Gotrot from Boulogne-sur-Mer in France, where his displaced Acadian ancestors had landed eighty years earlier.28 The crew of the Rebecca Sims heard the entire story while docked off the Chatham Islands; a consular official on the island of Saint Helena told sailors aboard the Cavalier. By 1840, Gotrot’s tale had reached Horace Conolly’s Boston.

Evangeline it wasn’t.

Indeed, Longfellow probably would have considered this story better suited to his ghoulish literary rival Edgar Allan Poe. But I confess that after a decade spent tracking down eighteenth-century Acadians and meditating on what happened to them, I cannot help but see Achille Gotrot as emblematic of the Acadian diaspora in ways that transcend Evangeline and the timeless constancy she embodies. The impression has grown stronger the more I have come to know his family.

Gotrot’s great-grandfather Charles Gautreau dit Maringouin (whose nickname translates, in American English, to “Skeeter”) was a fourth-generation Acadian. Born in 1711, he lived in Cobequid, a little village at the eastern end of the Bay of Fundy. More than anything else, two related phenomena determined the course of Maringouin’s life. The first was the rapid extension of Acadian agriculture, which turned marshlands into productive fields up and down the bay’s eastern shores in the first half of the eighteenth century. The second was the sharpening competition between the empires of Great Britain and France for the fruits of those lands, and for the Acadian hands that coaxed crops from what, to outsiders, looked like unforgiving soil. Construed as a kind of zero-sum game by those in power, this contest to secure Acadian labor spiraled into the expulsion of 1755 and anticipated the wider migrations to come. Chapter 1 tells this story.

Plenty of Maringouin’s relatives and friends were among the seven thousand Acadians swept up and shipped off in the first weeks of the assault on Nova Scotia. These were offloaded at nine different towns from Boston to Savannah, where they met Anglo-American hosts with no incentive to receive them warmly. Chapter 2 follows these exiles as they struggled to adjust to diminished possibilities, forge new alliances in unfamiliar environments, and understand the imperial transformations that would soon compel many to migrate again.

Maringouin, however, followed another path. With his wife, Marie-Josèphe Hébert, and his two sons, Charles and Gervais, he managed to flee Cobequid before the onslaught of 1755, crossing the Northumberland Strait to reach Ile Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island). Once home to a few hundred Acadian farmers drawn from the mainland by French politicking, Ile Saint-Jean’s little villages became squalid refugee camps packed with more than two thousand escapees. The British, though, took them as well, seizing a total of three thousand people, including the Gautreau family, after overrunning the island in 1758. Sensitive to protests by the North American colonists forced to receive Acadians a few years earlier, the British shipped these captives to France. And so Maringouin and his boys (Marie-Josèphe’s fate is unknown) found themselves in Boulogne-sur-Mer, a minor smuggling and pilgrimage center on the English Channel. He died there in 1760.29

Orphaned at sixteen, Gervais Gautreau had no money, few connections, and no idea how to negotiate the new world of old régime France. Four years after his father’s death, in 1764, he completed a second Atlantic crossing, this time to the mouth of the Kourou River, twenty-five miles northwest of Cayenne on the South American coast. He arrived with dozens of his fellow Acadians and ten thousand German-speaking peasants, all of whom had been recruited by Louis XV’s ministers to power a radical experiment in imperial economics and social engineering: the creation of a Caribbean colony dedicated exclusively to the production of food, and in which African slavery would be prohibited by law. Chapter 3 recounts the origins, development, and terrible end of what the French would come to call the Kourou expedition—as well as the story of Môle Saint-Nicolas, a similar settlement carved by Acadian exiles from the northern coast of slave-rich Saint-Domingue.

Gervais was lucky. He survived the tropics, somehow gaining passage to Boulogne-sur-Mer from Cayenne in 1765. On his way back to France, Gervais may well have crossed wakes with L’Aigle, a frigate bearing scores of his former compatriots bound for Port Saint-Louis, an Acadian colony on East Falkland. Chapter 4 unpacks the extraordinary history of this settlement, a product of one Frenchman’s obsession with ancient history and his crown’s designs on undiscovered lands deep in the Southern Hemisphere.

Even as France’s postwar hopes rose and fell with the fortunes of their Caribbean and South Atlantic outposts, Acadians of Gervais’s day inspired fresh thinking closer to home. Chapter 5 follows several hundred Acadians to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, an island off the southern coast of Brittany. Taken (embarrassingly enough) by the British during the Seven Years’ War, Belle-Ile played host to a bold attempt at making a colony for an age of enlightenment in which rustic, patriotic, and well-instructed settlers would put unused land to the plow while providing an example for the island’s benighted natives. For his part, Gervais remained aloof from the Belle-Ile boosters, and from the dozens of French, Spanish, and British schemers proposing new Acadian settlements. But in 1773, he was on the move again. With fifteen hundred other Acadians from France’s ports, he descended on the province of Poitou in central France. Divided among six recently built, relentlessly geometrical villages near the town of Châtellerault, the Acadians were to jump-start the region’s economy by clearing, farming, and demonstrating proper behavior for local peasants who were, according to one landowner, “mere automatons.”30 It did not work. In 1775, the little colony spiraled into anarchy. Ministerial conspiracies buffeted the Acadians from without, while insubordination, intimidation, and violence overtook them in their villages. In 1776, almost all of the settlers fled to the port of Nantes. Ten years later, most of these Acadians would accept a Spanish offer to migrate to Louisiana.Chapter 6 relates the story of this last, most ambitious attempt to redefine empire, and of the Acadian community it helped forge.

Gervais Gautreau, however, left that community behind. Upon leaving the Poitou colony, he went neither to Nantes nor to Louisiana, but made his way back to Boulogne-sur-Mer. His son Charles became a ship’s captain, joining dozens of privateers (including at least one other Acadian, Firmin Aucoin, captain of the much feared Flying Fish) who preyed on British shipping for Napoleon’s empire.31 After spending six years imprisoned in Great Britain, Charles, who began rendering his family name Gotrot, became a long-distance merchant, voyaging to Brazil, Martinique, New Orleans, and France’s Mediterranean coast.

Born in 1805, his son Achille went along as a cabin boy. Although he sometimes “burst into tears upon leaving Mama at the end of the dock,” and once “evacuated all of [his] bile” during a storm in the Atlantic, the sea had his soul.32 He never quite purged himself of boyhood insecurities, but he passed the exams necessary to become a bona fide whaling captain early in the 1830s—just in time to catch a wave of French enthusiasm over the colonization of New Zealand. Claimed by the British but explored early on by the French mariner Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville, New Zealand’s North Island played host to an abortive 1837 settlement by Charles-Philippe-Hypolite de Thierry, a con artist who also planned to cut a canal across Panama to ease long travel times. De Thierry’s plans failed, but a flood of profit seekers followed him into the Pacific. Among them was Achille Gotrot, the Acadian captain of the Jean Bart.33

This unhappy ending, I think, marks a good place to start a history of the Acadian diaspora. For the suicide of Achille Gotrot—a troubled young man who, so far as we can tell, rarely identified himself as an Acadian at all—suggests that the grand dérangementexpanded in multiple directions and led to multiple endings. In one respect, however, the Gotrot family’s saga is not so different from Evangeline, or from the real-life experiences of Acadians who wound up together in places such as Louisiana and Canada. All of these exiles moved, changed, came together, and pulled apart in dialogue with transformations in the imperial world around them. Its history and theirs are, in effect, one and the same.

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