Renée Soulodre-La France


Associate Dean


Latin American History

King's University College courses taught

History 2501E A Survey of Latin American History
History 3505F/G Popular Culture in Latin America
History 3507F/G Religion in Latin America
History 4502F/G The Black Atlantic: Slavery in Latin America and Africa
History 4503F/G Three Worlds Collide: Colonial Societies in Latin America

Area of research

My general area of research is colonial Colombia, or Nueva Granada as it was known until independence in the early 19th century. While I have worked specifically on the region of Tolima Grande in the past, I have since focused more specifically on thematic questions dealing with the place of people of African origin and enslavement in Nueva Granada. Beyond this though, I continue to be interested in social dynamics and cultural practices and institutions among indigenous and African descendant groups. The ultimate aim of this work is to deepen our understanding of how people fit into this particular setting, how they lived, loved, fought, and died, and the types of spiritual beliefs, cultural manifestations, and institutions they created to help give meaning to their lives. Through this I strive to add to our understandings of colonial societies and the ideas and structures that shaped them.

What research projects are you currently undertaking?

At the moment I am working on a comparative project tentatively entitled Imagining Diasporas: Africans in colonial Colombia and British North America. This work proposes to follow the historical trail of a group of Auxiliaries to Charles IV who fought for the Spanish in Saint Domingue and were subsequently promised freedom and land for the service they provided to the Crown. A group of these former slaves known as the ‘French Africans’ were eventually settled in Panama (which was part of colonial Colombia) and created a new town called Puntagorda, not too far from Portobelo, in 1797. Many of these warriors were from Kongo, however some had been born in Saint Domingue and the group included several women and children as well. I’m comparing this group of people and their ability to integrate themselves into that colonial society with the group of former slaves known as the Black Loyalists who were resettled in Nova Scotia by the British after the American Revolution. Again, they were granted freedom and promised land because of the service they had provided the crown. Thus I’m doing research from within the context of the two imperial systems to test the relevant variables that affected the outcomes of these events.

Furthermore, I continue to pursue concurrent research for a book on the cultural practices of people of African origin in colonial Colombia. My immediate task though is to write an essay that discusses Baroque Cities for which I have chosen to focus upon Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

What is it that you enjoy about working at King’s?

This is an easy question to answer. The people.  At King’s I have encountered truly compelling colleagues who are either like-minded, or respectfully dissident, in many aspects of their research interests and their pedagogical endeavours. This leads to wonderful exchanges, discussions, heated arguments and stimulating conversations. Given that King’s is a relatively small institution it is astounding that the College has been able to draw such talented and generous people to work here. Working closely with students and faculty members is not only possible, it is imperative at King’s. We have had to maximize our fewer resources in the past and that need has provided us with rather unique possibilities. I have great hope that this context will lend itself to innovative inter-disciplinary connections. I believe that such close articulations will allow us to develop programs and learning opportunities to further enable our students to thrive in the shifting circumstances they confront. I should also add that since becoming Associate Dean I have been overwhelmed by the congenial competence, kindness and humour of the many people I work with more closely in that capacity.

What are your interests outside of King’s?

Well, this isn’t really outside of King’s, since I’m a Queen of King’s. I’ve been a dedicated runner (my husband would say ‘addicted’) for way longer than I’d care to say. So, I was especially thrilled to become a member of King’s female faculty running club, The Queens of King’s. Aside from spending years of my life running I’ve been privileged to soak up almost every kind of music: opera, baroque and classical music, alternative and indie stuff (mostly through my boys-though I do pick up a guitar now and then) and my dirty little secret…I love country music! I also really enjoy going to Stratford and I think that Shakespeare rocks! All of this keeps me going, but still leaves me time to long for my Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Ocean. So we go West as often as possible for the scenery and to see our boys.