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The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

Details
Instructor Dr. Lawrence Powell
Location SEED Center
4310 Ryan St, behind McDonald's
2nd Floor Conference Center
Dates October 28
Time 3:30 - 4:30 PM
Price For all SAGE Lectures:
$45 until September 12
$55 after September 12


The Accidental City
This is the story of a city that shouldn't exist. In the seventeenth century, what is now America's most beguiling metropolis was nothing more than a swamp: prone to flooding, infested with snakes, battered by hurricanes. But through the intense imperial rivalries of Spain, France, and England, and the ambitious, entrepreneurial merchants and settlers from four continents who risked their lives to succeed in colonial America, this unpromising site became a crossroads for the whole Atlantic world.

Lawrence N. Powell, a decades-long resident and observer of New Orleans, gives us the full sweep of the city's history from its founding through Louisiana statehood in 1812. We see the Crescent City evolve from a French village, to an African market town, to a Spanish fortress, and finally to an Anglo-American center of trade and commerce. We hear and feel the mix of peoples, religions, and languages from four continents that make the place electric-and always on the verge of unraveling. The Accidental City is the story of land-jobbing schemes, stock market crashes, and nonstop squabbles over status, power, and position, with enough rogues, smugglers, and self-fashioners to fill a picaresque novel.

Powell's tale underscores the fluidity and contingency of the past, revealing a place where people made their own history. This is a city, and a history, marked by challenges and perpetual shifts in shape and direction, like the sinuous river on which it is perched


Larry Powell

About the Author


Until his retirement in June 2012, Lawrence N. Powell held the James H. Clark Endowed Chair at Tulane University, where he also established and directed the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South.  He has written and edited twelve books and numerous articles.  His most recent contributions are The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (Harvard 2012) and George Washington Cable's New Orleans (LSU 2008).  His first book, New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction won the Governor's Award from Yale University Press in 1980. Troubled Memory:  Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke's Louisiana (UNC Press) won the Lillian Smith Book Prize from the Southern Regional Council and the Kemper and Leila Williams Prize from the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association, both in 2000. It was also named by Booklist as one of the ten best Holocaust books of the year and was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the category of the Holocaust.  The Accidental City has garnered several prizes as well, including another Kemper and Leila Williams Prize, joint selection as Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and recognition as a top ten book by The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

His professional and community service has been extensive, ranging from membership on the boards of the Amistad Research Center, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana State Museum Board, to the presidency of the Louisiana History Association and a stint on the executive committee of the Southern Historical Association.

A former Guggenheim Fellow, in 1998 he received the "George Washington Lucas Community Service Award" from the New Orleans branch of the NAACP. In 1999 he was named "Louisiana Humanist of the Year" by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.  In 2008 he was elected a Fellow in the Society of American Historians in recognition of literary distinction in the writing of history.