• Greg Beaman

Guiding Research Questions

The history of New Orleans has been shaped by the circulation of free and enslaved men, women, and children both within its expanding boundaries and throughout the Atlantic World. Understanding New Orleans as a multiracial and multiethnic society requires knowledge of histories of slavery and emancipation, the Atlantic and Caribbean worlds, and urban environments and frontiers.

Historians acknowledge the importance of New Orleans as a port city in the Atlantic World, a site of diffusion for Native American, African, and European cultures and the creation of a creole or creolized culture. Despite the success of architectural history in understanding vernacular architecture as a manifestation of Atlantic materiality, the role of the built environment as an enabler of social relationships in New Orleans remains unheralded. Recent scholarship highlights the importance of interior and exterior spaces as locations of social commingling between free and enslaved people in specific faubourgs yet excludes detailed analysis vis-à-vis the built environment.

My research seeks to remedy these shortcomings. Using records of property transactions, building contracts, and slave sales, we can develop a demographically dynamic image of the built environment, neighborhoods, freedom, and slavery during the nineteenth-century. Property research yields microhistories in abundance. The project has the potential, therefore, to make large volumes of data available to map the diffusion of Atlantic bodies in the expanding city of New Orleans and to integrate personal histories into the broader framework of Atlantic studies. How did urban mobility shape residents’ interactions with race, enslavement, emancipation, and foreignness? What were the consequences of decentralized urban expansion for geographies of freedom and containment? Can the urban environment in the faubourgs function as an analytical locus of the conflict between Americanization and creolization?

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