Southern Queen -- the untold story of New Orleans in the 19th century

July 22, 2011

A new book by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA) reveals the untold story of New Orleans in the 19th century.

There were few cities in the world more remarkable than New Orleans. Cosmopolitan, alluring, dangerous - a profound mélange of Old World sensibilities and New World possibilities - it was a place unlike anywhere else in America.

Southern Queen: New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century by Dr Thomas Ruys Smith, lecturer in American literature and culture, examines the city's rise and fall in this period, charting its transformation from a small colonial backwater on the banks of the Mississippi, through the apex of its power and influence in the antebellum years, to the years of poverty and hardship that followed the Civil War.

Published by Continuum on August 4, it is a story characterised by the city's reputation for decadence, exoticism and illicit pleasures - the glittering carnival mask that the Big Easy still presents to the world. But it is also a story punctuated by a host of disasters that provide stark counterpoints to the glamour of Mardi Gras.

Throughout the 19th century, the city that care was supposed to forget was visited by wars, epidemics, riots, and - from slavery to Reconstruction and beyond - continual and violent racial tension. Yet through it all, the Southern Queen developed a profound romantic appeal that proved irresistible to an astonishing cast of visitors - travellers, writers, artists and musicians of every kind. It was, in short, an extraordinary time in the history of an extraordinary place.

This is the untold story of the life and times of 19th century New Orleans, aiding our understanding not just of the past, but of the present and future of one of America's most iconic places.
Southern Queen: New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century (ISBN 9781847251930), priced $29.95, is published by Continuum on August 4, 2011.

Thomas Ruys Smith is a lecturer in American literature and culture in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK.

University of East Anglia

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