America Becomes Urban: The Development of U.S. Cities and Towns, 1780-1980

Eric H. Monkkonen, Author
Eric H. Monkkonen, Author University of California Press $45 (336p) ISBN 978-0-520-06191-0
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
``The United States is urban but not urbane,'' writes Monkkonen, who points out that our oldest cities' modern layouts were planned less than 200 years ago. In colonial America, city streets had no names; today's urbanites may dream of owning their homes, yet this ideal is divorced from attachment to the land, which was so dear to European forefathers. By putting U.S. cities in a historical context, this UCLA professor of history makes us realize how fragile, amorphous, innovative and rootless American cities are. He labels Lewis Mumford an anti-historical aesthete and attacks Jane Jacobs for believing ``the kingdom of heavenGreenwich Village, 1950s' styleis nigh.'' Contemporary U.S. cities, in Monkkonen's schema, once acted like corporate entrepreneurs to provide services, but the Depression ended that and the federal government has not filled the breach. While this study offers no solutions, Monkkonen's long-range perspective is refreshing, even if some readers have trouble accepting his thesis that levels of violent crime have fallen over the centuries. (October)
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