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Activists in City Hall Cover

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Activists in City Hall

The Progressive Response to the Reagan Era in Boston and Chicago

by Pierre Clavel

In 1983, Boston and Chicago elected progressive mayors with deep roots among community activists. Taking office as the Reagan administration was withdrawing federal aid from local governments, Boston's Raymond Flynn and Chicago's Harold Washington implemented major policies that would outlast them. More than reforming governments, they changed the substance of what the government was trying to do: above all, to effect a measure of redistribution of resources to the cities' poor and working classes and away from hollow goals of "growth" as measured by the accumulation of skyscrapers. In Boston, Flynn moderated an office development boom while securing millions of dollars for affordable housing. In Chicago, Washington implemented concrete measures to save manufacturing jobs, against the tide of national policy and trends.

Activists in City Hall examines how both mayors achieved their objectives by incorporating neighborhood activists as a new organizational force in devising, debating, implementing, and shaping policy. Based in extensive archival research enriched by details and insights gleaned from hours of interviews with key figures in each administration and each city's activist community, Pierre Clavel argues that key to the success of each mayor were numerous factors: productive contacts between city hall and neighborhood activists, strong social bases for their agendas, administrative innovations, and alternative visions of the city. Comparing the experiences of Boston and Chicago with those of other contemporary progressive cities-Hartford, Berkeley, Madison, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Burlington, and San Francisco-Activists in City Hall provides a new account of progressive urban politics during the Reagan era and offers many valuable lessons for policymakers, city planners, and progressive political activists.

The Athens of America Cover

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The Athens of America

Boston, 1825-1845

Thomas H. O'Connor

Many people are generally familiar with the fact that Boston was once known as “the Athens of America.” Very few, however, are clear about exactly why, except for their recollections of the famous writers and poets who gave the city a reputation for literature and learning. In this book, historian Thomas H. O’Connor sets the matter straight by showing that Boston’s eminence during the first half of the nineteenth century was the result of a much broader community effort. After the nation emerged from its successful struggle for independence, most Bostonians visualized their city not only as the Cradle of Liberty, but also as the new world’s Cradle of Civilization. According to O’Connor, a leadership elite, composed of men of prominent family background, Unitarian beliefs, liberal education, and managerial experience in a variety of enterprises, used their personal talents and substantial financial resources to promote the cultural, intellectual, and humanitarian interests of Boston to the point where it would be the envy of the nation. Not only did writers, scholars, and philosophers see themselves as part of this process, but so did physicians and lawyers, ministers and teachers, merchants and businessmen, mechanics and artisans, all involved in creating a well-ordered city whose citizens would be committed to the ideals of social progress and personal perfectibility. To accomplish their noble vision, leading members of the Boston community joined in programs designed to cleanse the old town of what they felt were generations of accumulated social stains and human failures, and then to create new programs and more efficient institutions that would raise the cultural and intellectual standards of all its citizens. Like ancient Athens, Boston would be a city of great statesmen, wealthy patrons, inspiring artists, and profound thinkers, headed by members of the “happy and respectable classes” who would assume responsibility for the safety, welfare, and education of the “less prosperous portions of the community.” Designed for the general reader and the historical enthusiast, The Athens of America is an interpretive synthesis that explores the numerous secondary sources that have concentrated on individual subjects and personalities, and draws their various conclusions into a single comprehensive narrative.

Beyond Vietnam Cover

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Beyond Vietnam

The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974-1990

Robert Surbrug, Jr.

Narratives of the 1960s typically describe an ascending arc of political activism that peaked in 1968, then began a precipitous descent as the revolutionary dreams of the New Left failed to come to fruition. The May 1970 killings at Kent State often stand as an epitaph to a decade of protest, after which the principal story becomes the resurgence of the right. In Beyond Vietnam: The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974–1990, Robert Surbrug challenges this prevailing paradigm by examining three protest movements that were direct descendants of Vietnam-era activism: the movement against nuclear energy; the nuclear weapons freeze movement; and the Central American solidarity movement. Drawing lessons from the successes and failures of the preceding era, these movements had a significant impact on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which itself had been undergoing major transformations in the wake of the 1960s. By focusing on one state—Massachusetts—Surbrug is able to illuminate the interaction between the activist left and mainstream liberalism, showing how each influenced the other and how together they helped shape the politics of the 1970s and 1980s. During these years, Massachusetts emerged as a center of opposition to nuclear power, the continuing Cold War arms race, and Ronald Reagan’s interventionist policies in Central America. The state’s role in national policy was greatly enhanced by prominent political figures such as Senator Edward Kennedy, Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, presidential candidate Governor Michael Dukakis, Vietnam veteran Senator John Kerry, and moderate Republican Silvio Conte. What Beyond Vietnam shows is that the rise of the right in the aftermath of the 1960s was by no means a unilateral ascendancy. Instead it involved a bifurcation of American politics in which an increasingly strong conservative movement was vigorously contested by an activist left and a reinvigorated mainstream liberalism.

Books and Religious Devotion Cover

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Books and Religious Devotion

The Redemptive Reading of an Irishman in Nineteenth-Century New England

By Allan F. Westphall

In Books and Religious Devotion, Allan Westphall presents a study of the book-collecting habits and annotation practices of Thomas Connary, an Irish immigrant farmer who lived in New Hampshire in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Connary led a pious life that revolved around the use, annotation, and sharing of religious books: his surviving annotated volumes provide a revealing glimpse into the utility of books for a common reader and into how one remarkable non-elite reader imagined book utilities and the iconic status of religious books. Through a careful excavation of book adaptations and enhancements, Westphall establishes a profile of an eccentric reader-cum-annotator that gives us insight into the range of opportunities provided by the material book for recording and communicating a reader’s religious fervor. The study also investigates the broader nineteenth-century cultural setting, in which books are seen as testimonies of personal faith and come to function as instruments of social interaction in both domestic and public spheres. Underlying Connary’s many and varied interactions with books is a belief that physical objects can materialize belief, and that working in them can be a devout exercise instrumental in human salvation.

Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memoirs Of Catskill Summers Cover

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Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memoirs Of Catskill Summers

Every year between 1920 and 1970, almost one million of New York City's Jewish population summered in the Catskills. Hundreds of thousands still do. While much has been written about grand hotels like Grossinger's and the Concord, little has appeared about the more modest bungalow colonies and kuchaleins ("cook for yourself" places) where more than 80 percent of Catskill visitors stayed.These were not glamorous places, and middle-class Jews today remember the colonies with either aversion or fondness. Irwin Richman's narrative, anecdotes, and photos recapture everything from the traffic jams leaving the city to the strategies for sneaking into the casinos of the big hotels. He brings to life the attitudes of the renters and the owners, the differences between the social activities and swimming pools advertised and what people actually received. He reminisces about the changing fashion of the guests and owners—everything that made summers memorable.The author remembers his boyhood: what it was like to spend summers outside the city, swimming in the Neversink, "noodling around," and helping with the bungalow operation, while Grandpa charged the tenants and acted as president of Congregation B'nai.

Boston Cover

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Boston

Voices and Visions

Shaun O'Connell

“New England was founded consciously, and in no fit of absence of mind,” observed historian Samuel Eliot Morison on the establishment of the Bay Colony in 1630 on the narrow, mountainous Shawmut peninsula of what became Massachusetts. That self-conscious presence of mind has endured for four centuries. Boston has been shaped and sustained by observation, imagination, and interpretation. As a result, the evolving vision of Boston has yielded a compelling literary record. In this wide-ranging anthology, Shaun O’Connell includes a generous sampling of those who have recorded, revised, and redefined the vision of Boston. Anne Bradstreet, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary Antin, Edwin O’Connor, John Updike, and many others eloquently evoke and explain Boston in these pages. From John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon, delivered aboard the Arbella before his followers landed in 1630 in the place they would call Boston, to Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” a poem delivered in Boston’s Public Garden in 1960, writers have continued to invoke the high purposes for which the city was founded, sometimes in praise of the city, but often in what Robert Frost named a “lover’s quarrel,” in works that called attention to the city’s failures to fulfill its promises. In the twenty-first century some writers continue to celebrate or to castigate the city, while others look back to Boston’s origins to reassess its founders and renew its covenant of high purpose. This is an interpretive anthology—one that includes commentary as well as writings. Section introductions provide historical and biographical context, offer analysis that stresses the thematic relevance of each selection, and explore the pattern of their relations. Rather than present a random array of writers who happen to have been Greater Bostonians, O’Connell focuses on those authors who possessed a commitment to the sense of place, those who addressed Boston not only as a geographical, social, and political entity but as an image, idea, and site of symbolic values

Brooklyn By Name Cover

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Brooklyn By Name

How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names

Leonard Benardo, Jennifer Weiss

Visit the blog for the book at www.brooklynbyname.com

From Bedford-Stuyvesant to Williamsburg, Brooklyn's historic names are emblems of American culture and history. Uncovering the remarkable stories behind the landmarks, Brooklyn By Name takes readers on a stroll through the streets and places of this thriving metropolis to reveal the borough’s textured past.

Listing more than 500 of Brooklyn’s most prominent place names, organized alphabetically by region, and richly illustrated with photographs and current maps the book captures the diverse threads of American history. We learn about the Canarsie Indians, the region's first settlers, whose language survives in daily traffic reports about the Gowanus Expressway. The arrival of the Dutch West India Company in 1620 brought the first wave of European names, from Boswijck (“town in the woods,” later Bushwick) to Bedford-Stuyvesant, after the controversial administrator of the Dutch colony, to numerous places named after prominent Dutch families like the Bergens.

The English takeover of the area in 1664 led to the Anglicization of Dutch names, (vlackebos, meaning “wooded plain,” became Flatbush) and the introduction of distinctively English names (Kensington, Brighton Beach). A century later the American Revolution swept away most Tory monikers, replacing them with signers of the Declaration of Independence and international figures who supported the revolution such as Lafayette (France), De Kalb (Germany), and Kosciuszko (Poland). We learn too of the dark corners of Brooklyn“s past, encountering over 70 streets named for prominent slaveholders like Lefferts and Lott but none for its most famous abolitionist, Walt Whitman.

From the earliest settlements to recent commemorations such as Malcolm X Boulevard, Brooklyn By Name tells the tales of the poets, philosophers, baseball heroes, diplomats, warriors, and saints who have left their imprint on this polyethnic borough that was once almost disastrously renamed “New York East.”

Ideal for all Brooklynites, newcomers, and visitors, this book includes:

*Over 500 entries explaining the colorful history of Brooklyn's most prominent place names

*Over 100 vivid photographs of Brooklyn past and present

*9 easy to follow and up-to-date maps of the neighborhoods

*Informative sidebars covering topics like Ebbets Field, Lindsay Triangle, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

*Covers all neighborhoods, easily find the street you're on

Buying the Farm Cover

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Buying the Farm

Peace and War on a Sixties Commune

Tom Fels, foreword by Daniel Aaron foreword by Daniel Aaron

This book tells the story of Montague Farm, an early back-to-the land communal experiment in western Massachusetts, from its beginning in 1968 through the following thirty-five years of its surprisingly long life. Drawing on his own experience as a resident of the farm from 1969 to 1973 and decades of contact with the farm’s extended family, Tom Fels provides an insightful account of the history of this iconic alternative community. He follows its trajectory from its heady early days as a pioneering outpost of the counterculture through many years of change, including a period of renewed political activism and, later, increasing episodes of conflict between opposing factions to determine what the farm represented and who would control its destiny. With deft individual portraits, Fels reveals the social dynamics of the group and explores the ongoing difficulties faced by a commune that was founded in idealism and sought to operate on the model of a leaderless democracy. He draws on a large body of farm-family and 1960s-related writing and the notes of community members to present a variety of points of view. The result is an absorbing narrative that chronicles the positive aspects of Montague Farm while documenting the many challenges and disruptions that marked its history.

City of Promises Cover

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City of Promises

A History of the Jews of New York, 3-volume box set

Deborah Dash Moore

Vol. I, Haven of Liberty, 2012 Runner-Up for the Dixon Ryan Manuscript Award presented by the New York Historical Association
 
New York Jews, so visible and integral to the culture, economy and politics of America's greatest city, has eluded the grasp of historians for decades. Surprisingly, no comprehensive history of New York Jews has ever been written. City of Promises: The History of the Jews in New York, a three volume set of original research, pioneers a path-breaking interpretation of a Jewish urban community at once the largest in Jewish history and most important in the modern world.
 <br />Volume I, Haven of Liberty, by historian Howard Rock, chronicles the arrival of the first Jews to New York (then New Amsterdam) in 1654and highlights their political and economic challenges. Overcoming significant barriers, colonial and republican Jews in New York laid the foundations for the development of a thriving community.<br /> <br />Volume II, Emerging Metropolis, written by Annie Polland and Daniel Soyer, describes New York's transformation into a Jewish city. Focusing on the urban Jewish built environment—its tenements and banks, synagogues and shops, department stores and settlement houses—it conveys the extraordinary complexity of Jewish immigrant society.<br /> <br />Volume III, Jews in Gotham, by historian Jeffrey S.Gurock, highlights neighborhood life as the city's distinctive feature. New York retained its preeminence as the capital of American Jews because of deep roots in local worlds that supported vigorous political, religious, and economic diversity.<br /> <br />Each volume includes a “visual essay” by art historian Diana Linden interpreting aspects of life for New York's Jews from their arrival until today. These illustrated sections, many in color, illuminate Jewish material culture and feature reproductions of early colonial portraits, art, architecture, as well as everyday culture and community.<br /> <br />Overseen by noted scholar Deborah Dash Moore, City of Promises offers the largest Jewish city in the world, in the United States, and in Jewish history its first comprehensive account.

Clearing the Coastline Cover

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Clearing the Coastline

The Nineteenth-Century Ecological & Cultural Transformations of Cape Cod

Matthew McKenzie

In just over a century Cape Cod was transformed from barren agricultural wasteland to bountiful fishery to pastoral postcard wilderness suitable for the tourist trade. This complex social, ecological, and scientific transformation fundamentally altered how Cape Codders used and managed their local marine resources, and determined how they eventually lost them. The Cape Cod story takes the usual land-use progression--from pristine wilderness to exploitation of resources to barren wasteland--and turns it on its head. Clearing the Coastline shows how fishermen abandoned colonial traditions of small-scale fisheries management, and how ecological, cultural, and scientific changes, as well as commercial pressures, eroded established, local conservation regimes. Without these protections, small fish and small fishermen alike were cleared from Cape Cod's coastal margins to make room for new people, whose reinvention of the Cape as a pastoral "wilderness" allowed them to overlook the social and ecological dislocation that came before.

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