Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding New Orleans

We start off Powell's work by examining the competing visions for harnessing the assumed strategic and economic advantages of the Mississippi River and how they juxtaposed against the geographic and geopolitical obstacles that stood in the way of permanent settlement.

It is certainly interesting to consider that the Spanish were vaguely aware of the Mississippi no later than the doomed expedition of deSoto in 1541-2. We might consider why Spain, as entrenched as she was in the New World by 1600, did not pursue avenues to the North with more alacrity. Indeed, the Spanish had been well-established in present-day Mexico for a century by the time of the LaSalle Expedition in 1682. (note the link to KnowLa, a valuable online resource.) Incidentally, I remember going to a program held in my little town about a group of college students who, with their professors, reenacted the LaSalle Expedition. This is a 1977 People magazine article about the trip! Some of the language is interesting, to say the least!

John Law's encampment at Biloxi (1720) via Wikipedia.
If we think of the lower Mississippi River as a blank canvas for western-style settlement, then it is worth considering the aqueous landscape that surrounds it and the approach that a mariner might take towards evaluating topography. Yet as Powell will argue in chapter 2, events do not always unfold for the most logical or practical reasons.

My iPhone photo of the city from the Industrial Canal is not the best photography in the world, but it does convey the flatness and wetness of our landscape.

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