“Provides fresh insights into the ways that New Orleans was tied to the larger Atlantic world and how the city and its inhabitants weathered their incorporation into the United States.”—Ashli White, author of Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic
“Dessens reveals a vanished world of transatlantic circuits, interracial families, politics and property, even ethnic rivalries—but most of all, the resilience, adaptability, and hard times of Saint-Domingue exiles whom revolution and war on two continents had cast ashore in New Orleans.”—Lawrence N. Powell, author of The Accidental City
In Creole City, Nathalie Dessens opens a window onto antebellum New Orleans during a period of rapid expansion and dizzying change. Exploring previously neglected aspects of the city’s early nineteenth-century history, Dessens examines how the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of New Orleans came to symbolize progress, adventure, and culture to so many.
Rooting her exploration in the Sainte-Gême Family Papers harbored at The Historic New Orleans Collection, Dessens follows the twenty-year correspondence of Jean Boze to Henri de Ste-Gême, both refugees from Saint-Domingue. Through Boze’s letters, written between 1818 and 1839, readers witness the convergence and merging of cultural attitudes as new arrivals and old colonial populations collide, sparking transformations in the economic, social, and political structures of the city. This Creolization of the city is thus revealed to be at the very heart of New Orleans’s early identity and made this key hub of Atlantic trade so very distinct from other nineteenth-century American metropolises.
Dessens’s portrayal of this seminal period is innovative and crucial to understanding the city’s rich history and unique culture.
About the Author
Nathalie Dessens, professor of American history at the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, is the author of Myths of the Plantation Society: Slavery in the American South and the West Indies and From Saint-Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences.
Table of Contents
List of Figures vii
1 Adventure 6
2 Extremes 30
3 Progress 71
4 Crossroads 118
5 Cultures 149
6 The Creole Capital: Conclusion 215