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On Foot

On Foot: A History of Walking

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 333
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    On Foot
    Book Description:

    "I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understand the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering." - Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)" Everything is within walking distance if you have the time." - Stephen Wright (1955 - )For approximately six million years, humans have walked the earth. This is the story of how, why, and to what effect we put one foot in front of the other. Walking has been the primary mode of locomotion for humans until very recent times when we began to sit and ride-first on horses and in carriages, then trains and bicycles, and finally cars, trucks, buses, and airplanes-rather than go on foot. The particular way we saunter, clomp, meander, shuffle, plod along, jaunt, tramp, and wander on foot conveys a wealth of information about our identity, condition, and destination. In this fast-stepping social history, Joseph A. Amato takes us on a journey of walking-from the first human migrations to marching Roman legions and ancient Greeks who considered man a "featherless biped"; from trekking medieval pilgrims to strolling courtiers; from urban pavement pounders to ambling window shoppers to suburban mall walkers. Concentrating on walking in Europe and North America and with particular focus on how walking differed according to social class, Amato distinguishes how, where, when, who, what, and under which conditions people moved on foot. He identifies crucial transformations in the history of walking, including the adoption of the horse by the mounted warrior; the rise of public display among European nobility; and the building of roads and transportation systems, which led to the inevitable ascent of the wheel over the foot.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0753-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction: Walking Is Talking
    (pp. 1-18)

    In hisTheory of Walking, nineteenth-century French writer Honoré de Balzac wrote, “Isn’t it really quite extraordinary to see that, since man took his first steps, no one has asked himself why he walks, how he walks, if he has ever walked, if he could walk better, what he achieves in walking … questions that are tied to all the philosophical, psychological, and political systems which preoccupy the world?”¹ I hope here to answer Balzac’s questions as well as the questions that prompted me to write this history of walking.²

    My questions focus particularly on modern society. I ask who...

  4. 1 In the Beginning Was the Foot: Walking from the Origins of Bipedal Humanity to Marching Roman Legions
    (pp. 19-41)

    Since time immemorial walking has been the primary mode of human locomotion. Since the very beginning, walking and being human have coexisted. On foot humans crossed the earth, experienced life, and defined their relationship to the environment. On foot they carried their children, supported their old, hauled their tools and goods, and herded their animals. Similarly, they fled, chased, and killed, hunted and gathered, sought food, water, fuel, and habitat, traveled, played, courted, and enacted, often with the elaborate and fancy footwork of dance, their defining rituals. For millions of years, our proximate and distant ancestors moved across history on...

  5. 2 Along the Road: Medieval Pilgrims, Beggars, Mounted Warriors, and the Early City Walkers
    (pp. 42-70)

    For most of the thousand-year medieval period from 500 AD to 1500 AD, there existed no alternative to walking for the vast majority of people. The necessity of going on foot, as had been the case since time immemorial, was not in dispute.

    Except in church processions, court rituals, select pilgrimages, or a singular act of travel, walking carried with it the negative connotation of simply being part of humankind’s perennial attachment to the earth and the inescapable pains and burdens that went with moving and carrying. In the course of the Middle Ages, walking, as we will see, took...

  6. 3 Put Your Best Foot Forward: The Rise of Upper-Class Promenading and Strolling
    (pp. 71-100)

    Europe flourished in the eighteenth century after the fierce battles of the Reformation, the horrid and engulfing Thirty Years War (1618–1648), and the wars of Louis XIV (1685 to 1715). With warfare diminished, improved agriculture, and population again growing, central states increasingly focused their attention on fostering trade, improving transportation, and organizing and taking control of society. With its stress on reason, natural sciences, practical arts, and reform, the eighteenth century was identified as the Age of Enlightenment. In this period, people in the upper classes walked and traveled more, did so more by choice, and, at court, in...

  7. 4 Mind over Foot: Romantic Walking and Rambling
    (pp. 101-124)

    By the last half of the eighteenth century, those with means and leisure chose pleasant places to ride and then stroll. Carriages and coaches had begun the integration of city and countryside in the most prosperous and populous parts of Europe. Gardens, parks, city walls, and nearby riversides, forests, and villages all afforded a place for fancy and recreational footing.¹ In this period walking went from being a leisure activity of the aristocracy to a popular pursuit of the upper middle classes. Originally done in carriages (Promenaden en Carosses), promenading on foot grew in popularity.² Increasingly in Germany, men and...

  8. 5 North American Walking: Exploring the Continent on Foot
    (pp. 125-152)

    Early colonial Americans clung to the seacoasts. The towns were, in truth, rural townships developed around fishing, agriculture, and lumbering, or some combination of these. At the end of the seventeenth century, chains of prosperous towns and fishing villages, constituting the colonies, girdled a great interior wilderness.¹ Major commerce and travel was done by ship. However, even though the first settlers brought cattle with them—and horses in following generations—most inland travel was done on foot.

    Like their fellows in Europe, who were much like their medieval predecessors, the inhabitant of the colonies moved, worked, and survived on foot....

  9. 6 City Walking: The Genesis of the Urban Pedestrian in Nineteenth-Century London
    (pp. 153-178)

    Cities fostered new breeds of walkers. The disciplined pedestrian, the speeding commuter, the idling window shopper, the elusiveflâneur, and the organized marching groups were foremost among them. Nineteenth-century London and Paris perhaps best reveal, of all Western cities, the metamorphosis of the urban walking environment and the genesis of the gallery of contemporary urban walkers. Everywhere their creation was inseparable from the general formation of national, industrial, and mass society and the particular articulation of public transformation.

    Even though a new epoch of transportation was dawning at the start of the nineteenth century along select land and water routes...

  10. 7 A New Footing for the Nation: Taming and Cleaning Up Revolutionary Paris
    (pp. 179-202)

    The nineteenth century witnessed the transformation of the great cities of the West. Road building, sanitation, suburbs, public transport, and a tremendous increase in foot and vehicular traffic created an unprecedented urban environment and a new breed of walker for it. By controlling crowds and mobs, which had defied civic authority since the Middle Ages, the authorities and police helped give birth to this environment and the urban pedestrian and commuter. Only control of the streets could stave off the revolution, secure the expanding interests of the ruling and riding classes, and produce a new order of traffic.

    The nineteenth-century...

  11. 8 Getting in Step: Disciplining the Mob and Marching the Masses Off to War
    (pp. 203-228)

    With the emergence of mass, industrial, democratic national society at the start of the twentieth century, the synchronization of movement and the control of walking became vital for political authority, social order, economic productivity, and military effectiveness. It created a polarity between marching as a means of public expression and marching as a necessary element of state and military control.

    This polarization could already be witnessed at the start of the century. At the very time stroller and shopper flourished in the city and hiker and roamer thrived in the countryside, the movement offin du sièclepedestrian and commuter...

  12. 9 Wheels and Cars: The Eclipse of the American Walker by the Motorist
    (pp. 229-254)

    Inhabitants of the contemporary world sit more, walk less, and do so with far less effort and far more choice than their forebears. Two of the principal causes for this changed condition, which amounted to nothing less than an irreversible revolution, were wheels and cars. Not just vital for private and public transport but also crucial for the haulage of all things, wheels accounted for why twentieth-century people walked and carried less. Mass-produced cars turned walkers into riders and created, with highways and suburbs, a whole new social order, which transformed walking and human senses of space, time, and freedom....

  13. Conclusion: Choose Your Steps—Reflections on the Transformation of Walking from Necessity to Choice
    (pp. 255-278)

    Like hunting, fishing, horsebackriding, swimming, and other activities that were once considered indispensable, walking in Western society, and in significant sectors of the non-Western world, has become increasingly a matter of recreation, sport, or health, an expression of style, and even a vehicle to make a political statement. In the last two centuries, walking on the whole has passed from the realm of necessity into that of choice. It has become more specialized in its forms, having differentiated itself into types of romantic country walking, urban pedestrianism, race walking, hiking, recreational walking, and even mall walking. As its principal rivals,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 279-318)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 319-322)
  16. Index
    (pp. 323-332)
  17. About the Author
    (pp. 333-333)