New Orleans, 1718-1812: An Economic History. By John G. Clark.
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1970. Pp. xii
John Clark seems to be approaching his study of history in an un-
usual fashion: he is proceeding backward rather than forward in time.
In 1966 he published The Grain Trade of the Old Northwest, which
covered the period 1815 to 186o. Now he has gone down the Mis-
sissippi River and back in time to publish this economic history of
New Orleans to 1812.
One can learn much more than the economic history of the Crescent
City from this book. The first eight chapters, covering the period of
French control, comprise a history of Louisiana's trade relations with
France and with the other areas of the world. The chapters on the
Spanish period from 1763 to 1803 describe reforms in trade policies
and regulations within the Spanish imperial system; while the last
four chapters, covering the American era, tell of the early development
of the downriver trade of the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys.
Essentially this volume has two aspects. First, it is a study of French
and Spanish Louisiana and economic relations between the colony
and the crown; and secondly, it is a study of New Orleans as an urban
center. Not surprisingly, Clark finds that in both the French and
Spanish periods government officials saw the economic possibilities
of Louisiana, but due to their imperial perspective they were never
able to furnish the necessary economic materials for rapid or even
sustained growth. The key was labor, either in the form of free im-
migrants or slaves. They enjoyed little success in obtaining laborers
until the latter part of the Spanish period when Spain opened its
empire to Anglo-American immigrants. Of course, as in the case
of Mexican-Texas later, Spain soon saw the danger of being over-
whelmed from within, and cut off immigration and abolished its
free land policies.
These bars against immigration near the end of the Spanish period
came at a time when indigo and tobacco were giving way to cotton
and sugar as major products of the area. Already the downriver trade
with the old Northwest in flour and corn derivatives was giving in-
dications of its future importance.
Clark justifies dealing very little with New Orleans as an urban
entity until late in the eighteenth century by maintaining that it
did not attain a truly separate identity, either economically or po-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/. Accessed May 27, 2015.