"A monument to commercial isolation": Merchants and the economic decline of post- civil war New Orleans


This article describes the rapid economic decline of New Orleans after the Civil War and examines some of the reasons for it. It focuses on the elite merchant community of New Orleans, which had been the Old South's primary urban commercial and financial center. The article details how complacent attitudes among these long-powerful commodities merchants contributed to a variety of poor decisions and inadequate responses to radically changed postwar conditions. In addition, the wartime devastation of the city's banking sector, along with broad structural changes to postemancipation southern agriculture and the reorientation of intra- and interregional trade patterns, are all shown to have quickly combined to push the former first-rank American city down onto the dependent lower rungs of the American urban system during the decades immediately following the Civil War. © 2010 SAGE Publications.

Publication Title

Journal of Urban History