Cityscape is The Metropole’s monthly shortcut to recent, forthcoming, or overlooked writing, exhibits and film.
By Vincent DiGirolamo, Oxford University Press, 2019
Reverberating through city streets and especially in the movies—“Extra, Extra Read all about it!”—DiGorolamo brings to life a world where kids hawked the news and where work loomed larger than school.
By Thomas Campanella, Princeton University Press, 2019
If it seceded from New York, Brooklyn would be the nation’s fourth largest city. From Coney Island to Bedford Stuyvesant to Brooklyn Heights, Professor Campanella takes scholars and general readers on a grand tour of Kings County.
By Martin J. Murray, Stanford University Press, 2020
When apartheid ended in 1994, it was hoped that South Africa would evolve into a more equitable society. What Martin Murray finds instead is a dystopia where Johannesburg’s wealthy have retreated into gated communities while the middle class reside in home fortresses protected by multi-layered security systems. Not just crime, but insidiously, the fear of crime, envelope the city.
News, Features and Podcasts
By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, May 10, 2020
Sunday Opinion: American cities were once places of opportunity. No longer. The suffering of these past months reveals cities as death traps where poor black and Hispanic families are increasingly concentrated. Privileged white suburbs have confined and then abandoned those in greatest need. We are headed on a risky course.
By Laura Bliss and Jessica Lee Martin, CityLab, May 22, 2020
When confined, your bedroom becomes a neighborhood, your apartment or house, and a walk around the block the grand tour. These are beautiful maps of intimate space drawn by amateurs and professionals defining the way we live now.
By Tom Jackman, The Washington Post, May 19, 2020
From March 16 to April 10 there was a dramatic decline in violent and property crime. Also, cops fearful of contracting the virus did not make as many stops and arrests. But why did serious crime increase in Denver and Houston?
The first episode of a five- part podcast is a dramatic retelling of the “greatest disaster in Chicago history,” the sinking of the Eastland in the Chicago River. 844 passengers and crew members perished. (For comparison, around 300 died in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.) Later episodes attempt to uncover the mystery of the Foolkiller, a forty-foot submarine found in 1915 at the bottom of the Chicago River. A man and dog were inside.
By Jennifer Medina, The New York Times, May 28, 2020
An unlikely story of metropolitan cooperation and mutual aid in one of the nation’s most segregated regions: Greater Detroit.
Cities Besieged by Plague
Cityscape temporarily suspends its listing of museum shows and films to offer a feature which we hope you will find relevant.
By Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia, April 1, 2020
Of the plague that ravaged Athens from 429 to 426 BC, Thucydides wrote: “…there was no previous record of so great a pestilence and destruction of human life… unable to cope…[doctors] were treating the disease for the first time and in ignorance; indeed the more they came in contact with the sufferers, the more liable they were to lose their own lives…supplication at sanctuaries, resort to divination, and the like were unavailing. In the end people were overwhelmed by disaster and abandoned efforts against it.” Thucydides survived to tell the tale. Not so the great Athenian leader, Pericles. Athens was defeated by Sparta. But was Sparta’s great ally typhus? Smallpox? Bubonic plague? We do not know. People should study what happened, said Thucydides,“…in case it shall ever attack again, to equip themselves with the foreknowledge so that they shall not fail to recognize it.”
By Mathew Niederhuber, Science In The News, Special Edition on Infectious Diseases, September 31, 2014.
When smallpox broke out in Boston in 1721, The Reverend Cotton Mather’s slave, Onesimus, explained that West Africans were inoculated with smallpox pus; he had no fear of contracting the disease. After confirming that other West African slaves had also been inoculated, Mather campaigned aggressively to inoculate everyone in Boston. A bitter fight ensued. For other clergymen, inoculation was against God’s will; most doctors believed (with some real justification) that inoculation was untried and fantastically risky. But did it work? Data kept by Mather and a collaborating doctor—among the earliest clinical trials!—showed that inoculation was worth the risk. In earlier writings, Mather delineated with his customary clinical precision the nature of witchcraft. His work helped create the fearful climate that led Salem to execute thirty innocent people. Witches, Mather explained, can take various sizes and shapes. So apparently can epidemics, emotional and otherwise.
By Francesco Aimone. Public Health Reports, U.S. Library of Medicine, NIH
Controversy raged over whether public schools were safer than the filthy tenements where kids lived. In the end, schools were kept open. Business and shop hours were staggered to reduce subway crowding. Then as now the message was clear—cover your mouth and nose! No spitting!
By William W. Sanger, M.D., Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2015 
According to Dr. Sanger, when merchants and others came to New York on business, they often visited brothels where they contracted syphilis and other venereal diseases; on returning home they infected their wives who might give birth to infants, stillborn, blind or deformed. As the resident physician of the Penitentiary Hospital—one of the few facilities that would admit venereal disease patients—Sanger became so alarmed over the nation-wide spread of syphilis emanating from New York, that he was determined to go public. His ostensible report to The Board of Alms House Governors for 1858 was in fact a monumental 700-page treatise on the history of sexual immortality and an inquiry as to how and why women entered prostitution based on data drawn from personal interviews with 2,000 prostitutes living in New York. Sanger concluded with a ringing denunciation of what invariably proved to be futile and counter-productive efforts to repress prostitution and plea for licensing and regulating prostitution as a business. Published and reprinted by Harper and Brothers, Sanger’s History won plaudits from Walt Whitman and Emma Goldman, who detested Progressive Era vice commission reports that had called for forceful repression. Sanger remains the starting and perhaps the end point for research into prostitution in Victorian America.
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Featured Image: [Cityscape of Spa, Belgium], between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.