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INTRODUCTION Bruce Tucker Most of the essays in this issue were read as papers at the October, 1990, annual meeting of the Canadian Association for American Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. Organized around the theme of the North American city, the conference brought together historians, political scientists, literary specialists and activists from Canada and the United States to discuss contemporary scholarship in American urban studies. This conference was not an isolated event but part of a larger North American effort to assess and chart future agendas for American urban studies. In December 1988,urban specialists at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in Cincinnati established the Urban History Association to stimulate interest and research in urban history in all periods and geographical locations. In October 1990, the Chicago Historical Society hosted two conferences to discuss research in urban studies by historians and museum professionals.1 Although much of the impetus for this new momentum seems to have come from historians, the diversity of papers at the Concordia conference suggests that the current revitalization of urban studies knows no disciplinary boundaries. All of the essays address the problem of organizing, perceiving and analyzing urban space, technology and culture. Gilles Vandal, Bruce Daniels and Stephen Randall examine aspects of urban political culture and social organization from the early nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Thomas Carmichael, Irene Gammel and Michael Zeitlin analyze classic texts by Frederick Philip Grove, Theodore Dreiser, William Faulkner, Don DeLillo and John Barth. Articles on public history by Arthur Mehrhoff, the discourse of urban nuclear holocaust by Ann Larabee, and a review essay on urban reform by David de Giustino conclude this collection. Writing on the subject of vagrancy in nineteenth-century New Orleans, Gilles Vandal describes the emergence of a new definition of vagabondage between 1850 and 1880. Vandal argues that local elites abandoned their paternalistic stance towards vagabonds as unfortunate victims of uncontrollable economic forces and adopted a view of vagabondage as an economic crime deserving punishment and incarceration. He suggests that local elites adopted repressive measures against vagrants as part of a larger 150 Bruce Tucker pattern of consolidating their authority and power. His research indicates that the notion of poverty as personal failure, and worse, as a crime against the state, took shape in the context of local conflicts over the control of urban space and social organization. Analyzing population growth in New England's secondary cities during the first half of the nineteenth century, Bruce Daniels uses census data to examine the impact of population movement from the countryside to Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Springfield, Worcester and Providence. He argues that nineteenth-century Americans seeking new opportunities did not perceive these cities as attractive locations. The demographic data not only charts patterns of population movement and urban growth, but also helps us to understand the migratory behaviour of working families in nineteenth-century America. His work qualifies the conventional notion of New England cities in the first decades of the nineteenth century as areas of dynamic economic growth. In addition, his essay extends our knowledge of urban development beyond the centers of the industrial revolution such as Lowell and Lynn, especially during the neglected decades before the Civil War. Stephen Randall's essay on the occupational health of granite workers in Barre, Vermont, during the first decades of the twentieth century helps to make sense of a hitherto elusive topic in urban studies--the quality of life for working-class urban dwellers. In its use of statistics based on a random sample from the manuscript census, city directory and death certificates, the article demonstrates the high incidence of death from tuberculosis, silicosis and pneumonia among granite workers before the institution of protective measures and equipment. Randall also examines the study of lung disease among granite workers and the redefinition of silicosis from a general illness to a specifically work-related illness. He concludes with the suggestive observation that workers perceived Barre largely as a site for industrial work, rather than as a "cosmopolitan community in which young and old alike shared in the pleasures of community." Irene Gammel brings a sensitivity to gender relations in her essay on Dreiser's Sister...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 149-152
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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