Thursday, September 4, 2014

Steven Conn's "Americans Against the City"

Steven Conn is Professor and Director of the Public History Program at the Ohio State University. He is the author or editor of To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government; Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living in the Presence of the Past; History's Shadow: Native Americans and Historical Consciousness in the 19th Century; among other works; he is the co-editor of Building the Nation: Americans Write about Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape.

Conn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Americans Against the City begins my discussion of the new towns program created under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Though there were initially two dozen such towns planned, only three were eventually built and the chapter goes on to examine the creation of one of them: Greenhills, OH. The New Deal new towns were emblematic of the larger anti-urban impulse in American life that I explore from the late 19th century up to the early 21st. It is a basic paradox: we are an urbanized nation filled with people who don't like cities very much. Across the 20th century, a varied collection of writers, critics, designers, politicians and policy makers imagined that the solution to urban problems was to leave cities altogether. During the urban crisis of the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt, who loathed cities personally, was enthusiastic at the idea that we could "decentralize" the nation buy moving back to the country or into new small towns. Americans Against the City analyzes the relationship between policy and place. It is an exploration of the way in which our anti-urban impulse has formed the landscape of our politics and of the places we live, and a study of how ideas shape the built environment.
Learn more about Americans Against the City at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: History's Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue