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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.

Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture, is the author of eight books about New Orleans, including Bourbon Street: A History, Bienville’s Dilemma, and Geographies of New Orleans. A two-time winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year Award, Campanella has also received the Louisiana Library Association’s Literary Award, the Williams Prize for Louisiana History, and 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

“The smartest book I’ve read this year about American cities. . . . A fascinating account of how urban cultures persist and evolve and are perceived.”—John King, San Francisco Chronicle

“A lively blend of narrative microhistory and data-driven urban geography. . . . [Campanella’s] close readings of archival records and painstakingly collected data offer valuable insights into Bourbon Street’s origins and persistence as an iconic streetscape rooted in history, geography, and collective memory.”—Journal of Southern History

“Campanella becomes the ultimate tour guide, immersing readers in the spectacular, cacophonous, and malodorous sensory experience of the booming vice district. . . . Campanella does an excellent job of mapping ‘geographies of pleasure’ (99) that have made the tourist promenade such a central part of New Orleans's economic and cultural identity.”—Southern Spaces

“Campanella’s archives are as rich and idiosyncratic as Bourbon Street itself; his prose is both witty and inviting; his argument is forceful, lucid, and often convincing. . . . An important intervention in the study of New Orleans history and culture—and a welcome invitation for further inquiry into this extraordinary and still controversial Street.”—The Common Reader

“A detailed and chronological narrative. . . . Campanella provides a rich look into one of America’s famous street’s using a wealth of primary sources and quantitative analysis. His multidiscipline approach is comprehensive.”—Southern Register

“Campanella’s book is at times as R-rated as its subject, but it is a scholarly work, well documented, and informed. Anyone interested in the history of one of this country’s most famous and important streets should read it.”—Arkansas Review

“Campanella provides an entertaining but still profound historical, geographical, and economic tour of a street that he portrays as vital not only to the prosaic development of New Orleans but also to its more fanciful image—an image that historical and cultural preservationists strenuously oppose.”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“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

“Richard Campanella’s thoughtful exploration of New Orleans’s most contentious street is more than just a geographical or cultural history. . . . It may be one of the most hated streets in New Orleans, but may also be the one with the strongest will. We’ll raise a tacky, plastic hand-grenade cup to that.”—Edible New Orleans

“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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