Nineteenth-century cities : essays in the new urban history.

Industrialization and its connections with the American city can be approached most broadly through several essays in Stanley L. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vol. 2, The Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) and, perhaps more easily, in Walter Licht, Industrializing America: The Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995). Licht's survey can be complemented by his more focused study of labor markets and migration: Getting Work: Philadelphia, 1840-1950 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992). There are a large number of studies, like the latter, that examine industrialization and industrial workers within specific urban settings. Some of the more rewarding of these are: Thomas Dublin, Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979); Philip Scranton, Propriety Capitalism: The Textile Manufacture at Philadelphia, 1800-1885 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City & the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); Richard B. Stott, Workers in the Metropolis: Class, Ethnicity, and Youth in Antebellum New York City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Nineteenth-Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History

Nineteenth-century cities essays in the new urban history.

Nineteenth-century cities: Essays in the new urban history

For other reasons, as well, most nineteenth-century Americans harbored even more reservations about city life than many of their early twenty-first century counterparts do now. These industrializing centers became what the British historian Asa Briggs termed “shock cities,” places where the new and modern erupted, often to devastating effect. Out of them emanated huge pools of capital, and fluctuating prices that determined whether a farmer or merchant would turn a profit. They seethed with foreigners, from merchants and shippers to cabinet and dressmakers to the newly arriving immigrants, who lifted bales and toted barrels and staffed the lower rungs of factories. Epidemics like that of cholera struck cities first. Until the sanitary revolution of the late nineteenth century, sewers were rare, contamination of water supplies was rampant, and housing especially for poorer urban dwellers increasing dense and packed. Way stations for traffic with America’s extractive frontiers, these cities became alleged hotbeds of double-dealing, corruption, and disease. At no time has the contrast between city and countryside seemed starker, or the American city itself more unnatural, than at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth.

,Nineteenth century cities: Essays in the new urban history

The kind of growth visited upon American cities in this industrial era, especially since World War II, has arrived in many parts of the developing world. There, also in the less prosperous economies of Eastern Europe, mega-cities have arisen, peopled by millions fleeing the industrial transformation of agriculture in a surrounding countryside. Though New York became the world’s first city to surpass ten million people, of the twenty cities bigger than this by 2000, all but Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles were in the Third World. If not among a privileged elite, residents in these mega-cities face dilemmas similar to those of America’s late nineteenth-century urbanites: poor sanitation and housing, poverty, and political and social marginalization. By 2006, these burgeoning agglomerations had brought the world to an epic milestone. For the first time in history, more of humanity now lives in cities than in rural areas.

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During the second half of the nineteenth century, the United States experienced an urban revolution unparalleled in world history up to that point in time. As factories, mines, and mills sprouted out across the map, cities grew up around them. The late nineteenth century, declared an economist in 1889, was “not only the age of cities, but the age of great cities.” Between 1860 and 1910, the urban population grew from 6 million to 44 million. The United States was rapidly losing its rural roots. By 1920, more than half of the population lived in urban areas. The rise of big cities during the nineteenth century created a distinctive urban culture. People from different ethnic and religious backgrounds came into the cities and settled down in large apartment building and tenement houses. They came in search of jobs, wealth, and new opportunities. Urbanization brought a widening of the gap between the poor and the rich. Nineteenth century American industrialization relied upon poverty and immigration for its success. Industrialization grew due to an increase of workers and cheap labor.

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Nineteenth-Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History. Edited by Stephan Thernstrom and Richard Sennett. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. xiii …

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