An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature

An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature



Strategically situated at the gateway to the Mississippi River yet standing atop a former swamp, New Orleans was from the first what geographer Peirce Lewis called an impossible but inevitable city. How New Orleans came to be, taking shape between the mutual and often contradictory forces of nature and urban development, is the subject of An Unnatural Metropolis. Craig E. Colten traces engineered modifications to New Orleans's natural environment from 1800 to 2000. Before the city could swell in size and commercial importance as its nineteenth-century boosters envisioned, builders had to wrest it from its waterlogged site, protect it from floods, expel disease, and supply basic services using local resources. Colten shows how every manipulation of the environment made an impact on the city's social geography as well - often with unequal, adverse consequences for minorities - and how each still requires maintenance and improvement today. For example, while the massive levee system has controlled the unpredictable Mississippi, it also captures heavy down-pours, creating a new set of internal flood problems.

LOC Call Number

GF504 .L8 C65 2005

Publication Date



Department of Geography and Anthropology


Louisiana State University Press


Baton Rouge

An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature