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The Accidental City
     

The Accidental City

5.0 1
by Lawrence N. Powell
 

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America’s most beguiling metropolis started out as a snake-infested, hurricane-battered swamp. Through intense imperial rivalries and ambitious settlers who risked their lives to succeed in colonial America, the site became a crossroads for the Atlantic world. Powell gives us the full sweep of the city’s history from its founding through statehood.

Overview

America’s most beguiling metropolis started out as a snake-infested, hurricane-battered swamp. Through intense imperial rivalries and ambitious settlers who risked their lives to succeed in colonial America, the site became a crossroads for the Atlantic world. Powell gives us the full sweep of the city’s history from its founding through statehood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This rich story of the emergence of the Crescent City from its unlikely floodplain site is the best history of early New Orleans ever written. Despite Powell’s claim that the Big Easy was an accidental, improvised city, in this respect it was not unlike many other human habitations. But from its origins in the late 17th century, New Orleans was unlike all others on this continent in its mixed population; its distinctive overlay of French, Spanish, African, and American peoples, languages, and ways; and its unfavorable location. “he place was cobbled together from the bricolage of cultural borrowings and solutions improvised on the fly.” Nothing in this book surpasses Powell’s portrayal of the city’s mixed American-born people and its free people of color. “Early New Orleans was a place of reinvented identities, a crossroads of improvisation. People came there to make themselves anew.” In Katrina’s aftermath and the shock of nature’s claims on our lives, this timely work brings out the complexities of New Orleans’s history as well as the rich tapestry of its gritty people. Scholarly but readable, this is a splendid telling presented in a clear, robust voice. 19 illus., 2 maps. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Powell (American Civilization/Tulane Univ.; Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke's Louisiana, 2000, etc.) returns with a dense, complex history of a dense, complex settlement. The author knows well the geographical and geopolitical history of the city where he teaches, and the complexity of this story would daunt a faint-hearted historian--which Powell manifestly is not. He dives confidently into the murky bayou of the region's story, and what a tangled tale he emerges to tell. The author begins with the explorers, provides geological history of the region and of the serpentine, intractable Mississippi River. Powell then narrates the stories of the French, Spanish, African slaves and British--all of whom settled, collided, mingled, married, reproduced and competed. The European colonial powers, especially France, attempted to impose on the area--a most unlikely spot for a settlement, as Powell continually reminds us--some sort of design, but the terrain, the weather and the unique human mixture imposed their own fluid economy and culture. After taking over, Spain found it more profitable to practice a more relaxed reign, especially with slaves, who enjoyed more freedom of movement, economic clout and opportunities for manumission than they did with the French, and than they would with the Americans. The author begins with initial settlements and ends with the War of 1812. Along the way he tells stories--sometimes too densely for general readers--of the well-known (John Law) and little known (an ineffectual Spanish governor, Don Antonio de Ulloa) and should-be-known (the organizers of New Orleans' capable black militia). Powell is brilliant at elucidating the city's intricate racial politics. Superior scholarship provides a sturdy foundation for a hefty narrative edifice that sometimes groans with the weight of detail.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674068933
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
04/13/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
237,601
File size:
8 MB

Meet the Author

Lawrence N. Powell holds the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization and is Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University.

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The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago