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Urban Rivers

Remaking Rivers, Cities, and Space in Europe and North America

Stéphane Castonguay, Matthew Evenden

Publication Year: 2012

Urban Rivers examines urban interventions on rivers through politics, economics, sanitation systems, technology, and societies; how rivers affected urbanization spatially, in infrastructure, territorial disputes, and in flood plains, and via their changing ecologies. Providing case studies from Vienna to Manitoba, the chapters assemble geographers and historians in a comparative survey of how cities and rivers interact from the seventeenth century to the present.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: History of the Urban Environment

Title Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-16

The 1870 report of the Rivers Pollution Commission in Britain contained a facsimile of a letter written not in ink but with the darkened, polluted waters of the river Irwell, the notorious stream running through...

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1. Brussels and its Rivers, 1770-1880: Reshaping an Urban Landscape

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pp. 17-33

Brussels, the central city of the Austrian Low Countries of the eighteenth century, became the official capital of Belgium in 1830. It was a medium-sized city of northwestern Europe, with some 80,000 inhabitants in 1770 and nearly five times as many a century and a half later (about 385,000...

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2. The River Lea in Westham: A River's Role in Shaping Industrialization on the Eastern Edge of Nineteenth-Century London

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pp. 34-56

Greater London grew from a little over one million to about eight million people during the nineteenth century. This massive population growth transformed the city’s relationship with the natural environment and placed increasing pressure on the city’s hinterlands. One of the most significant...

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3. An Urban Industrial River: The Multiple Uses of the Akerselva River, 1850-1900

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pp. 57-74

Richly endowed with hydropower resources, especially in the country’s western and central alpine regions, Norway based much of its economic development on electrochemical and other power-consuming industries in the twentieth century. Yet it was along the banks of a small river, partly running...

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4. The Rivière des Prairies: More than Montreal's Backyard?

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pp. 75-94

The military metaphor in this excerpt is an apt description of the drive to conquer territory and nature in the first half of the twentieth century. The spread of urbanization seemed inexorable, as did the progress that it heralded. Like other commentators of his era, the geographer Pierre Dagenais observed...

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5. The Seine and Parisian Metabolism: Growth of Capital Dependencies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 95-112

The links between Paris and the Seine are as old as the city itself, whose history can hardly be imagined without that of its river.1 The Seine and its tributaries (figure 5.1) assured Paris’s supply of commodities of (nearly) every...

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6. The Channelization of the Danube and Urban Spatial Development in Vienna in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 113-129

This chapter discusses the changing relation between the city of Vienna and the Danube River during the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.1 It focuses in particular on the Danube floodplains...

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7. Rivers and Risk in the City: The Urban Floodplain as a Contested Space

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pp. 130-144

Cities concentrate not only people, economic wealth, cultural activities, and political institutions but also environmental risk. This holds especially true for river cities where the incorporation of nature into the fabric of urban life often is the most important reason for their existence. The river...

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8. The St. Lawrence and Montreal's Spatial Development in the Seventeenth Through the Twentieth Century

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pp. 145-159

Since the sixteenth century, when Jacques Cartier first described the “great river of Canada,” voyageurs, cosmographers, and, later, historians and geographers have all drawn attention to its characteristics and features. I do not propose to reiterate...

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9. Urbanization, Industrialization, and the Firth of Forth

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pp. 160-182

The water environment considered in this chapter is different from the others discussed in this book. The Firth of Forth is a saline embayment of the North Sea that receives the freshwater input of some twenty rivers...

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10. Diverting Rivers for Paris, 1760-1820: Needs, Quality, Resistance

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pp. 183-200

This chapter is an investigation into the harnessing of rivers to supply cities with drinking water and the sort of issues raised by such ventures. The selected field of study is that of river diversion projects to supply Paris in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, mainly involving the...

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11. Fluid Geographies: Urbanizing River Basins

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pp. 201-218

Chicago, by nature, is not upstream from St. Louis. But beginning in 1900, it began sending its effluent by gravity via the Illinois River to the Mississippi River. The somewhat clandestine and deliberately premature...

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12. To Harmonize Human Activity with the Laws of Nature: Applying the Watershed Concept in Manitoba, Canada

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pp. 219-236

In May 1958, the Manitoba provincial government, as part of its effort to promote watershed management, published an educational pamphlet designed to explain this new idea.1 Watershed management was described as a method...

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pp. 237-242

Urban Rivers opened with the river Irwell flowing through Manchester, pungent and polluted. The river served as a metaphor for a broader process; we claimed that the Irwell might be conceived as the epitome of the...


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pp. 243-290


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pp. 291-294


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pp. 295-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780822977940
E-ISBN-10: 082297794X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961857
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961857

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos, 35 maps
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: History of the Urban Environment

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- Europe.
  • City planning -- North America.
  • Rivers -- Economic aspects -- Europe.
  • Rivers -- Economic aspects -- North America.
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