Synopses & Reviews
Over its long history, Florida has been many things: an Edenic realm protected by geography; a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors; a place to start over; and "god's waiting room." With a native population as high as 900,000 (who all died), it became a pestilential backwater, but today is our fourth most populous state. The site of vicious racial violence, including massacres, genocide, slavery, and the terrorist campaigns that undid Reconstruction, Florida is now one of our most diverse states, a dynamic multicultural place with an essential role in 21st century America.
From the very first, however, the remarkable story of Florida has been distorted and whitewashed. In Finding Florida, T.D. Allman reclaims this remarkable history from the mythologizers, apologists, and boosters. He shows Florida as it was and is, tracing its history through the pre-Columbian era, and under Spanish, French, and British rule. He describes the 19th century American maneuvers to take this territory it coveted, the importation of slavery following Andrew Jackson's military campaigns, and the terrible violence of the Seminole Wars. Florida became a state in 1845; sixteen years later it would secede.
In Florida, Allman writers, two Civil Wars unfolded. First was the actual war, then came the imaginary one, where brutality and ruin were transformed into a selfless struggle to defend a noble cause that never existed. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, Florida was sold as paradise, with tourism replacing slavery as the dominant activity. Palm Beach, Key West, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando boomed, fortunes were won and lost, land was stolen and flipped, and millions arrived.
The product of a decade of research and writing, Finding Florida is a highly original, stylish, and masterful work, the first modern history of this important place.
A take-no-prisoners account . . . extremely timely and relevant.”New York Times Book Review
A magisterial rip at the states invaders, conquerors and rulers.”Orlando Magazine
A rich and lively history of Florida, minus the Disney gloss . . . [Allman] shatters five centuries of mythmaking to tell the real story. . . . A splendid rendering of the messy human story of our fourth-most populous state.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Allmans engaging, eye-opening, and heavily researched history of Florida spans half a millennium, from the myth of Ponce de Leóns Fountain of Youth to the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and it is a fulsome cavalcade of would-be conquistadors, epically corrupt and racist politicians, and oligarch wannabes."Booklist
"An immense and important work."Bookforum
"I loved Allman's extraordinary book. . . . Almost every county in Florida bears the name of a butcher, a slavedriver, a madman, a scoundrel or a thief, in a state where for half a millennium the governing mandate seems to be Defeat the Truth, Triumph over Reality. T.D. Allman's counter-narrative to all the pretty lies is a scouring hurricane of research, investigation, and soul-cleansing wrath, and I doubt there has ever been a better, or more important, book written about the Sunshine State, the birthplace of imperial hubris, American-style."Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
"Equal parts social analysis, historical review, and jeremiad, Finding Florida is a passionate, often scathing, and remarkably comprehensive encounter with a confounding, contradictory, and ever-elusive place. If your idea of hell is being chained to a galley oar between a politician and a Chamber of Commerce exec, then you are likely to love this book."Les Standiford, author of Last Train to Paradise
Manuscripts repeatedly find their way into print that ignore the reality of Floridas past and, in so doing, skew our understanding of what Florida has been, what it is now, what its likely to become, and what that means for everyone. T. D. Allmans book turns all that on its head. It directly challenges the existing historiography with highly intelligent insight and crafting of narrative in a way that permits the reader to immerse himself in a world far from the expected one. Finding Florida is provocative to the point of daring. Thomas Jefferson claimed a little revolution was needed about every twenty years. Florida and its historiography is long overdue for one.”Canter Brown, Jr., Professor of History, Fort Valley State University
An extraordinary tome . . . Finding Florida offers a history lesson that is long overdue."Birmingham Times
For the general reader, Finding Florida is a catalyst for hearty discussions and more reading.”Authentic Florida
Finding Florida is fascinating, comprehensive, and accessible to the non-specialist reader. While Allman covers an enormous amount of materialtaking Florida from uninhabited swampland to the sidewalk culture of South Beachhe does so in such engaging ways that the reader is never overwhelmed. Indeed, each chapter is in itself a satisfying and illuminating narrative, stock full of vivid characters. Somehow he has managed to pull together a compelling read without sacrificing historical substance, a feat to which many professional historians aspire. His wry voice conveys a point of view that gently pushes readers to understand Florida as an American synecdoche.”Glenda Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University
Allman provides connections between events, trends, individuals, cultures, geography and geology that all worked to shape Floridas past and our future. But the real reason to pick up this book is that its a ripping good read; with its fast pace, wry humor, polished prose, and compelling story, I just could not put it down.”Thomas Van Lent, senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation
[From] a raconteur of rare qualities . . . [one] of the fiercest and most prescient nonfiction books written about the Sunshine State in the past 40 years.”—Palm Beach Arts Paper
Finding Florida is a must-read for any Florida resident who is interested in the states history.”EU Jacksonville Magazine
Longlisted for the National Book Award and a Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
Over the centuries, Florida has been many things: an unconquered realm protected by geography, a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors, gods waiting room,” and a place to start over. Depopulated after the extermination of its original native population, today its home to nineteen million. The site of vicious racial violence, including massacres, slavery, and the roll-back of Reconstruction, Florida is now one of our most diverse states, a dynamic multicultural place with an essential role in 21st-century America.
In Finding Florida, journalist T.D. Allman reclaims the remarkable history of Florida from the states mythologizers, apologists, and boosters. Allman traces the discovery, exploration, and settlement of Florida, its transformation from a swamp to paradise.” Palm Beach, Key West, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando boomed, fortunes were won and lost, land was stolen and flipped, and millions arrived. The product of a decade of research and writing, Finding Florida is a highly original, stylish, and masterful work, the first modern comprehensive history of this fascinating place.
About the Author
is the author of Miami: City of the Future
, and Rogue State: America at War with the World
. A native Floridian, Harvard graduate, and former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, Allman was for many years the foreign correspondent of Vanity Fair
, and is credited with uncovering the CIA's "secret war" (a phrase he coined) in Laos. He has written about Florida for Esquire
and National Geographic
, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper's, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Le Monde,
and The Economist
, among other publications. He divides his time between Miami, New York, and the south of France.