The American City: A Documentary History

The American City: A Documentary History

The American City: A Documentary History

The American City: A Documentary History

Excerpt

That the United States has become an urbanized society is a fact that should be evident to most everyone. Even casual examination of the census returns of the last two decades demonstrates the continually increasing tendency of people to live in cities and super-cities. We have been subjected to a flood of popular books and articles warning us of the colossal problems facing the huge metropolis. In a nation long committed to an agrarian tradition and a corresponding rhetoric, the urban question has suddenly become an acceptable topic for political debate. Yet, for all the attention, there has been little effort to examine the rise of American cities historically, and anyone who has concerned himself with the subject has perhaps shared my view that a summary collection of materials would be useful, particularly for teaching purposes. This set of documents is designed to provide an introduction to the vast store of largely undeveloped historical sources which illuminate the role played by cities in our nation's past.

The word introduction is used advisedly, for certainly no small collection of documents could encompass many aspects of the histories of many American cities. Anyone who teaches American urban history necessarily employs case studies; I have chosen my examples, naturally enough, from areas of the country I know best, with the obvious hope that they do not distort general themes of American urban development. Since I have tried to include reasonably long and substantially intact documents, I have had to neglect subjects-- the urban immigrant, urban class structure, and urban labor--that many might want to see included in any history of American cities.

Other more general emphases in the volume should also be pointed out. First, in the hope of adding to its usefulness, I have tried to avoid imposing any theory of American urban development on the material or building into the work a rationale to justify the teaching of urban history. Anyone who studies cities very long soon becomes aware of the problems of definition in such terms as urban and rural and of the need to distinguish between urbanization as a social process and cities as institutions. The few theoretical pieces listed in the bibliography will offer suggestions on problems of method. In presenting the documents I have assumed that for . . .

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