A Brief History of New Orleans


C17th to C19th

La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi company. In 1763, the French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire and remained under Spanish control for 40 years. Most of the surviving architecture of the Vieux Carré (the French Quarter where ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is set) dates from this Spanish period. Louisiana reverted to French control in 1801, but Napoleon sold it to the United States for 15 million dollars in the Louisiana Purchas two years later. The city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, and Creole French. During the War of Independence in 1812 the British sent a force to conquer the city. The British were defeated by American forces led by Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8th 1815.


As a principal port, New Orleans had a leading role in the slave trade, while at the same time having the most prosperous community of free persons of color in the South. The population of the city doubled in the 1830s, and, by 1840, New Orleans had become the wealthiest and third most populous city in the nation partly as a result of trade in tobacco, indigo, rice and cotton grown on plantations.



In the early 20th Century, New Orleans became a progressive major city. Urban development had, until the invention of electric pumps used to drain the river basin, been limited to higher ground. However the pump system allowed the city to expand into low-lying areas and the 20th century, saw rapid growth and industrial development.