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The Urban South

The Urban South: A History

LAWRENCE H. LARSEN
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hs49
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  • Book Info
    The Urban South
    Book Description:

    In this panoramic survey of urbanization in the American South from its beginnings in the colonial period through the "Sunbelt" era of today, Lawrence Larsen examines both the ways in which southern urbanization has paralleled that of other regions and the distinctive marks of "southernness" in the historical process.

    Larsen is the first historian to show that southern cities developed in "layers" spreading ever westward in response to the expanding transportation needs of the Cotton Kingdom. Yet in other respects, southern cities developed in much the same way as cities elsewhere in America, despite the constraints of regional, racial, and agrarian factors. And southern urbanites, far from resisting change, quickly seized upon technological innovations- most recently air conditioning- to improve the quality of urban life.

    Treating urbanization as an independent variable without an ideological foundation, Larsen demonstrates that focusing on the introduction of certain city services, such as sewerage and professional fire departments, enables the historian to determine points of urban progress.

    Larsen's landmark study provides a new perspective not only on a much ignored aspect of the history of the South but also on the relationship of the distinctive cities of the Old South to the new concept of the Sunbelt city. Carrying his story down to the present, he concludes that southern cities have gained parity with others throughout America. This important work will be of value to all students of the South as well as to urban historians.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6367-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. EDITOR’S PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    Charles P. Roland
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. 1 THE CONSTRUCTION OF COLONIAL CITIES
    (pp. 1-22)

    The urbanization of the South has been not dramatic but generally mundane and rather bland. Dramatic moments involve destructive epidemics, conflagrations in wartime, and racial confrontations, none exalted or exalting. The building of the urban South saw no major battles between economic titans, no frenzied activities by thousands of land sharks and speculators racing to found towns, no great national projects involving the rapid spread of rails across the continent, no mineral rushes that created whole towns overnight, and no technological or organizational triumphs leading to industrial power on the world scene. Events of importance sometimes took decades to unfold....

  7. 2 THE BUILDING OF AN ANTEBELLUM SYSTEM
    (pp. 23-48)

    The early days of the new nation required the emerging cities of the South to make various adjustments. For Charleston the immediate price of independence was high because the termination of British subsidy payments for indigo and rice depressed agriculture in South Carolina. The loss of the lucrative British West Indies trade further complicated the economic picture. The closing of the Sugar Islands in the West Indies to American commerce hurt Norfolk more than it did Charleston. Norfolk, which had been literally flattened by a British naval bombardment on New Year’s Day in 1776, had hardly recovered before it lost...

  8. 3 THE RAVAGES OF CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION
    (pp. 49-68)

    Southern city builders entered the 1850s on an optimistic note. The Compromise of 1850 gave rise to hopes for an end to the sectional crisis, and a general renewal of ties with the North seemed in the offing. The growing gap in purpose and scope between the southern and the northern urban systems continued to pose problems. Even so, none of the points of difference seemed insurmountable, especially if the new southern interior cities grew rapidly and the old coastal centers expanded their commercial functions. As it was, the differences between the sections had not poisoned economic relationships. New York...

  9. 4 THE ADVENT OF THE NEW SOUTH
    (pp. 69-95)

    The purveyors of the New South creed claimed that a combination of southern managers and northern money had the capacity to develop cities quickly. After all, Chicago, not even incorporated until 1834, had made dramatic progress. Its population grew from 30,000 in 1850 to 503,200 in 1880, making it the fourth largest city in the nation and the fastest growing place in the world. There seemed no reason why well-established southern cities, some with roots stretching back into the colonial period, could not grow in similar fashion. Nevertheless, while Henry Grady and other New South leaders talked in broad sectional...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 5 HOLDING THE LINE
    (pp. 96-118)

    During the 1890s the South stopped overtly trying to compete with the North and turned inward. Widespread opposition developed to any policy that sought accommodation with the new northern industrial order, although the goals of the leaders of the New South movement were not necessarily rejected en masse. After all, shortly after his untimely death in 1889, Grady came to rank as one of the South’s fallen heroes. Moreover, Henry Watterson continued to gain stature as a sectional leader, and Richard Edmonds’sBaltimore Manufactures’ Recordremained the South’s foremost commercial publication. Rather, the change in emphasis related directly to the...

  12. 6 DEPRESSION, WAR, AND CIVIL RIGHTS
    (pp. 119-139)

    In 1930 a group of Vanderbilt University intellectuals collectively contributed to a book of essays,I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. They attacked industrialism and applied science, deplored the trend toward urbanization in the South, and called for a return to agrarian values. They denigrated capitalism and communism as twin menaces that, given the “blind drift” of industrialism, would produce identical economic systems in both the United States and the Soviet Union.¹

    For the Vanderbilt group the choice for the future was not between communism and capitalism but between industrialism and agrarianism. The group’s members envisioned...

  13. 7 AN URBAN RENAISSANCE
    (pp. 140-160)

    The trends that characterized southern urban progress continued following the changes wrought by the civil rights revolution. The long period of retrenchment came to an end. Industry steadily increased in importance and threatened to make the South more and more like the rest of the nation. A goal of state governments, in the wake of unsuccessful attempts to stop integration, was to fight delaying actions against unionization. Concern about air pollution, exhaustion of resources, and depletion of water supplies were, in the main, considerations that took second place to material progress. Nor did it seem to matter that certain expected...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 161-175)
  15. ESSAY ON SOURCES
    (pp. 176-191)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 192-199)