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.
Author Richard Campanella's story presents 68 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.