Lesson in Negotiation: The Louisiana Purchase

Fredrik Stanton: The Louisiana Purchase not only was probably the best real estate deal in history, it was also one of the formative events in American History, and it really defined the country as we know it today. France owned the Louisiana Territories, which was a vast expanse of wilderness at that point along the banks of the Mississippi River and extending all the way to the Rockies and beyond.  It was about 800,000 square miles of territory.

The United States was very concerned because the Port of New Orleans, through which half of America’s trade flowed out as a port of entry from the Mississippi had been cut off to the Americans. It sent America into its first major crisis since the Revolution.

Napoleon sold it to the United States because he was worried that he might lose it anyway if a war broke out with the British, which imminent and eventually happened. The U.S. bought the Louisiana Territories for $15 million. And it forms the basis for the majority of our states today. 

Question: What lesson does this teach us about everyday negotiations?

Fredrik Stanton: The United States was aware that France and Napoleon was about to go to war with England. He needed money for the war and he was worried that he would lose Louisiana anyway. So the American negotiator successfully used this to their advantage and one of the lessons we can draw from that is, if you understand what motivates the person on the other side of the table from you, whether in a real estate negotiation or a business negotiation, you will discover factors that don’t involve you directly, but that push the other side under pressure to make a deal or provide leverage that you can use.

For instance, if you’re buying a house, you may discover that the other side is selling the house because the family has gotten a new job elsewhere and needs to move by a certain date. That gives you leverage in a negotiation because they’re under pressure to sell. There maybe other factors that are involved, but if they have to sell, then that gives you additional leverage that you can use to lower the price, to improve the terms, to do any number of things. 

Recorded January 18,2011
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd


In 1803 the U.S. negotiated probably the best real estate deal in history, taking advantage of Napoleon's need for cash to fund his European expansion.

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less