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Bienville's Dilemma
A Historical Geography of New Orleans

Richard Campanella
booksXYZ price: $25.00
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Sixty-eight short essays on the historical geography of New Orleans.

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Starting in 1699, a teenaged French Canadian named Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville grappled with a high-stakes dilemma: where should the primary city for the new French colony of Louisiana be located? Bienville eventually selected, in 1718, a swampy crescent of alluvium nestled between a flood-prone river and a storm-prone tidal lagoon.

Over the next three centuries, that city, New Orleans, would struggle through countless challenges to become the largest city in the South and among the most important in the nation. It remains today a beacon of urban and cultural distinction, and a prophetic city for a troubled world to watch. All New Orleans’ glories, tragedies, contributions, and complexities can be traced back to the geographical dilemma Bienville confronted in 1718.

"Bienville’s Dilemma" presents sixty-eight articles on the historical geography of New Orleans, covering the formation and foundation of the city, its urbanization and population, its “humanization” into a place of distinction, the manipulation of its environment, its devastation by Hurricane Katrina, and its ongoing recovery.

Dilemmas—difficult choices that often yield undesirable consequences—are as fascinating as they are distressing. Dilemmatic places—cities, for example, that are important but costly, strategic yet risky, triumphant and tragic—are among the most intriguing locales on Earth.

New Orleans offers a premier example, starting with the 1718 decision of its founder, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, to establish a French colonial settlement in a flood-prone Louisiana swamp.

Bienville’s Dilemma analyzes New Orleans’ past and present through the guiding questions of geography:

What is the shape, form, and origin of the physical landscape?

How have humans transformed the landscape?

How are phenomena distributed spatially, why, and how have the patterns changed through time?

What distinguishes places from each other?

How do people perceive place?

What clues of the past do we see in the present-day cityscape?

How can geographical knowledge be used to restore and improve disturbed places?

Bienville’s Dilemma presents sixty-eight articles on the historical geography of New Orleans, plus an extensive timeline and forty-eight pages of color maps, graphs, and photos.

Richard Campanella, a geographer at Tulane University, is the author of Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm (Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006), winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ “Book of the Year” Award; Time and Place in New Orleans (2002), selected as the Gulf South Booksellers Association’s “Book of the Year;” and the critically acclaimed photographic survey New Orleans Then and Now (1999). His research has been published in the Journal of American History, Journal of Architectural Education, Technology in Society, and Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, and cited by the New York Times, National Public Radio, and American Experience (PBS). Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Campanella is the associate director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research and a research professor with Tulane’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He and his wife Marina live in the New Orleans neighborhood known by some as “Bywater,” and others as the “Upper Ninth Ward.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 05, 2008

“Richard Campanella Chronicles the History of New Orleans' Landscape”
by Susan Larson

"Bienville's Dilemma," includes 68 brief articles and essays written in his characteristic lucid and straightforward style, all describing various human interactions with the local landscape -- forming it, settling it, urbanizing it, populating it, manipulating it, humanizing it -- and its eventual devastation and ongoing restoration.

HCampanella draws from rich readings in travelers' accounts, newspaper articles and previous geographies, as well as his own observations, so important in the sections dealing with Katrina and its aftermath. The result is an immensely readable treasure trove of history, one a reader could open to any page for a source of enlightenment, education or pure delight. And the 58-page timeline of the city's history is an invaluable reference in itself.

For the full review, visit:

History Books :: Historical Geography Books
Science Books :: Earth Sciences Books :: Geography Books
History Books :: United States Books :: State & Local Books :: South (Al, Ar, Fl, Ga, Ky, La, Ms, Nc, Sc, Tn, Va, Wv) Books

ISBN: 1887366857
ISBN(13-digit): 9781887366854
Copyright: 2008
Book Publisher: Center for Louisiana Studies
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 429
Illustrations (Color): 100

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