A comprehensive and copiously documented survey of 300 years of Spanish colonial activity along its northern outposts in the New World, from Weber (History/Southern Methodist Univ.). Concerned with the dynamics of a Spanish presence in the North American Southeast and Southwest across the centuries, Weber both pays homage to and distinguishes his history from the ideas of Herbert Eugene BoRon, who since the 1920's has been considered the preeminent authority on the Spanish influence in North America, and whose vision of settled ""Spanish borderlands"" corrected the previous view that those in the wake of Columbus came primarily to plunder and destroy. In this context, Weber demonstrates the multifaceted nature of the Spanish enterprise, beginning with the exploratory period of Ponce de LeÃ³n, Coronado, De Soto, and the remarkable Cabeza de Vaca in the 1500's. Settlements followed, but these were either military outposts or missions for the conversion of ever-reluctant natives, and the populations in those communities remained small in comparison with those of English communities soon established along the Atlantic seaboard. With royal policy varying from active involvement in maintaining the frontier to periods of severe neglect, and with a pervasive attitude that the Indians were to be subdued and Christianized rather than exploited as trading partners and potential wartime allies--the policy practiced by the French and English--the tensions along Spanish borders remained high. Unable to halt either the erosion of its position as a world power or the steady advance of the Anglo-American colonies, Spain was forced to relinquish its claims, although ample evidence of the Hispanic culture it inspired remains in the Southwest today. An impressive scholarly acknowledgment, full of telling details, of the important Spanish role in North America, useful to ethnohistorians and nonspecialists alike.