Hurricanes in New Orleans: Perspectives on Cultural Adaptation, 1722–65

Saturday, January 5, 2013: 2:30 PM
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Eleonora Julia Rohland, Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities
Why was New Orleans placed in an inherently flood prone environment by its French founders? What did they know about hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region? And how did the French colonists react to those disastrous storms? The paper will sketch out the answers to these questions while drawing on a wider research context, covering the period from 1722 to 2005. Focusing on New Orleans’ French period (1722-1765), the paper argues that local environmental knowledge as well as ‘imported’ technological knowledge were key for the French gaining a foothold in the Mississippi delta. Yet, by applying eighteenth century engineering techniques to this still rather unfamiliar environment, the French set a precedent for the development of the city and for the adaptation to hurricane disasters.
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