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Bourbon Street

A History

416 pages / 6.12 x 9.50 inches / 33 halftones, 7 maps, 6 charts

ebook available

Southern History | Regional Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807155059 / March 2014
New Orleans is a city of many storied streets, but only one conjures up as much unbridled passion as it does fervent hatred, simultaneously polarizing the public while drawing millions of visitors a year. A fascinating investigation into the mile-long urban space that is Bourbon Street, Richard Campanella’s comprehensive cultural history spans from the street’s inception during the colonial period through three tumultuous centuries, arriving at the world-famous entertainment strip of today.
 
Clearly written and carefully researched, Campanella’s book interweaves world events—from the Louisiana Purchase to World War II to Hurricane Katrina—with local and national characters, ranging from presidents to showgirls, to explain how Bourbon Street became an intriguing and singular artifact, uniquely informative of both New Orleans’s history and American society.
 
While offering a captivating historical-geographical panorama of Bourbon Street, Campanella also presents a contemporary microview of the area, describing the population, architecture, and local economy, and shows how Bourbon Street operates on a typical night. The fate of these few blocks in the French Quarter is played out on a larger stage, however, as the internationally recognized brands that Bourbon Street merchants and the city of New Orleans strive to promote both clash with and complement each other.
 
An epic narrative detailing the influence of politics, money, race, sex, organized crime, and tourism, Bourbon Street: A History ultimately demonstrates that one of the most well-known addresses in North America is more than the epicenter of Mardi Gras; it serves as a battle-ground for a fundamental dispute over cultural authenticity and commodification.

Geographer RICHARD CAMPANELLA, a professor in the Tulane School of Architecture, is the author of seven books about New Orleans and was twice awarded the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year Award. Winner of the Williams Prize for Louisiana History and the Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Campanella also received the Monroe Fellowship from Tulane’s New Orleans Center for the Gulf South.

Praise for Bourbon Street

“Persuasive. . . gleefully subversive. . . . Campanella writes in a straightforward, unadorned style, combining a historian’s scrupulousness, a sociologist’s attention to demotic sources, and a geographer’s fascination with the influence of terrestrial conditions on culture, politics, and development. . . . Part of the delight of the various charts and maps included in the book is to imagine Campanella, clicker and stopwatch in hand, standing motionless amid the drunk, swelling mobs as he soberly records his data.”—Nathaniel Rich, New York Review of Books

“Campanella's vividly told, fact-packed account of the French Quarter entertainment strip couldn't be more topical. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to discuss New Orleans crime, economic development, the value of historic preservation, the business of vice, and the touchy subject of ‘authenticity’ in a city that celebrates its past.”—Times-Picayune

“A fantastically in-depth examination of what may be the most famous street in America....Campanella’s Bourbon is more than just a street, and this history covers more than just Bourbon. It is, in many ways, a history of New Orleans, or, rather, a history of what New Orleans makes itself out to be. He doesn’t stop there. He delves into the polarizing nature of modern Bourbon Street and the argument over the authentic New Orleans experience....Campanella proves [that Bourbon Street] is a global phenomenon, irrevocably married to Louisiana’s image.”—New Orleans Advocate

“Campanella...juggles statistics, geography, demographics, analysis, history and storytelling with brevity and wit…will make even the staunchest enemies of [Bourbon Street] reexamine his/her biases....An informative joy.”—Leigh Checkman, Antigravity

“A thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and altogether fascinating account of the mile-long street's history, from the Louisiana Purchase to the present.”—La Voce di New York

“Weaves together history, geography, and culture to explain how Bourbon came to exist…. fascinating…delightful…both amusing and informative….” —Walter Isaacson

“Richly researched…engaging… [Campanella] shows how Bourbon Street has constantly evolved.” —S. Frederick Starr

Campanella, elsewhere

Richard Campanella talks to Susan Larson of WWNO's The Reading Life about Bourbon Street: A History. - The Reading Life

Richard Campanella quoted in "Debate on Bourbon Street: Should the Good Times Roll Less Loudly?" - New York Times

Bibliography for BOURBON STREET: A History

Bibliography for BOURBON STREET: A HISTORY by Richard Campanella

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