Category Archives: Book Reviews

Confronting the Void: New York after 9/11

Susan Opotow and Zachary Baron Shemtob, editors, New York after 9/11. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018.

For anyone in New York that day, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 remain very much in the present. But memory and raw emotions fade. Young men and women joining the armed forces today were not even born when the war they will be fighting in began. They have no memory of 9/11, but they have grown up in a world transformed by that history.

In New York after 9/11, Susan Opotow, a social psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and attorney Zachary Baron Shemtob consider this moment “when memory [was] becoming history.” The essays in their anthology address the rebuilding of the city, the memorial and museum, the physical and mental health of New Yorkers, and security and surveillance.

At times, the tone of the collection is critical of the city’s response to the attacks. Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s public health and security measures are critiqued, and always lurking in the background is the specter of anti-Muslim bigotry. But given the magnitude of the act, the city responded with remarkable civility and tolerance.

Ground Zero under construction, New York City
Ground Zero under construction, New York, New York, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, May 20, 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In their opening essay, Opotow, Shemtob, and Patrick Sweeny examine how a city recovers from a disaster. They base their analysis on response to natural disasters, not an act of war. What Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans was certainly a disaster. The attack on Pearl Harbor may have been a disaster for the Navy, but the nation experienced that as an attack. The distinction between a natural disaster and an act of war is left unexplored. Labeling what happened on 9/11 a disaster may make sense in understanding the city’s response, but it diminishes the political context of the event.

Next, Hirofumi Minami and Brian R. Davis ask whether there is a parallel between Hiroshima and Ground Zero. Employing a “Psychoanalysis of Cities” approach, they try “to provide a common psychoanalytic framework for considering the traumas” and examine how both cities “have rethought recovery within their urban landscapes.” Their discussion of collective trauma and memory in a comparative framework offers provoking insights, but they are dismayed that New Yorkers think comparing New York and Hiroshima is “somehow inappropriate,” and the authors do not entertain any possible reasons to reject such an uncomfortable linkage. Further, they offer a gratuitous insertion of presentist political piety. In their telling, the early phases of recovery were “marked by a collective solidarity around an immigrant experience representative of what the city [stood] for,” but was “gradually co-opted by the symbolic deployment of an aggressive ‘America first’ jingoism.” This is simply off the mark. To the contrary: what characterized New York, and America, after 9/11 was a very public rejection of nativism and bigotry.

Especially welcome are “Memory Foundations” by Daniel Libeskind on his master plan for Ground Zero and Michael Arad’s “Building the 9/11 Memorial.” Libeskind began with the certainty that “nothing should be built where the tragedy took place,” but the realities of Manhattan real estate were unavoidable. “The site of the World Trade Center is not a business-as-usual site, though it must also work as business as usual.” Just as the resulting design differed from the World Trade Center, so did the process reject the “top-down” approach which resulted in the Twin Towers. This ushered in “an era of public participation. … People are the core of the city, and people should make decisions.” While insight into Libeskind’s thinking is helpful, he might have discussed the extent to which the final plans deviated from his original submission.

9-11-01, New York City, print by Andrea Arroyo, 2001, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Explaining the concept behind “Reflecting Absence,” his winning submission in the design competition, Michael Arad writes, “The moment of coming up to the site would be a moment of comprehension, from seeing the scale of the towers’ footprints being echoed in the memorial, seeing the size of the void in the middle of the city, an seeing the multitude of names that would surround each footprint.” The waterfalls express both individual and collective loss, the separate strands forming a single curtain halfway down.

The concluding essay, by Opotow and Karyna Pryiomka details the complexities inherent in a place-based commemoration of loss. Davis Brody Bond, the architectural firm commissioned to design the museum, began by confronting the space itself: the void, the largest, most vital historical artifact and “a metaphor for the enormities of loss experienced after 9/11.” Anyone visiting the museum would surely agree that the architects and curators successfully navigated a rather treacherous terrain to create an extraordinarily respectful experience.

Rements form a cross from the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster.
Remnants form a cross from the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster, New York, New York, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, July 25, 2008, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

How 9/11 affected New Yorkers in terms of public health and security is a less triumphant story. Norman Groner concludes that tall buildings are generally safer, but adopting the new codes took over a decade, and even then “the more stringent requirements apply only to new construction.” While we might have assumed that all parties pulled together from the beginning to identify and mitigate the health impacts, a transcript of a discussion among doctors, labor unionists, and community activists reveals just how much unfounded and sometimes intentionally misleading information came out of government agencies. Surprisingly, for example, Ground Zero was not designated a hazardous waste site.

Questions regarding counterterrorism remain controversial. Charles R. Jennings states in “Urban Security in New York City After 9/11: Risks and Realities” that the city will remain a prime terror target, but “the reality of securing New York City from terrorists is somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible.” Nonetheless, law enforcement had to plan and deploy forces as best they could.

Dream state, 10:05 a.m., 9/11/01, part of Exit Gallery Art Reactions, 2001, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

After 9/11, the NYPD formed a “Demographic Unit” within the Intelligence Bureau, deploying informants and undercover officers to monitor Muslim New Yorkers. Dial Shamas, a human rights and civil liberties attorney, condemns NYPD surveillance and asserts that Muslim youth “bore the brunt of the backlash” after 9/11. She contends that “surveillance chilled constitutionally protected rights” and stigmatized entire communities as suspect. Her evidence consists of statements by Muslim youth describing their feelings, not incidents of actual harm. This is not to dismiss the danger of police targeting “suspect communities,” but she does not acknowledge that law enforcement was wrestling with a new kind of threat to public safety. Her primary example of intrusive police activity is a female undercover officer operating at Brooklyn College. That officer’s identity became known after the arrest of two Muslim women, one a convert, for conspiring to plant bombs. What might have happened had she not been present?

The editors have compiled a compelling volume, bringing together the many strands of the city’s recovery and reinvention after 9/11, and the social and cultural problems the city wrestled with in the process. Among New York after 9/11’s many triumphs is a complex analysis of the interplay of memory and history, and how both play out in public policy and discourse. As 9/11 evolves from memory into history, what is irretrievably fading is the immediacy of the event as eyewitnesses experienced it. That aspect of history may be preserved, but it cannot be recovered.

Jeffrey A. Kroessler is an Associate Professor in the Lloyd Sealy Library, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Featured image (at top): Ground Zero under construction, New York, New York, November 6, 2009, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Inequality of Nashville Skylines: A Review of Ansley T. Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and its Limits

Ansley T. Erickson, Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). 390 pp. notes, index. ISBN 978 0 226 02525 4.

Reviewed by Walter C. Stern

For decades the relationship between the value of housing and the desirability of schools has been practically inescapable. Realtors hype or pooh-pooh the purported quality of schools, and they point to web sites that map home prices alongside school ratings. Zip codes appear to dictate a child’s educational and economic destiny. Until recently, however, urban historians largely failed to explore the origins of the seemingly self-evident connection between schools, metropolitan geography, and financial well-being.

Ansley Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metropolis takes a major step toward filling this void. Underscoring the inseparability of urban and educational history, Erickson explores educational inequality in Nashville from World War II through the end of Metropolitan Nashville’s court-supervised school desegregation in 1998.

City Market, Nashville, Tennessee, 1939, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Nashville serves very well as a case study because its 1963 consolidation with Davidson County pulled urban, suburban, and rural students into a single metropolitan school district. Here then is an inviting opportunity to consider what happens when desegregation unfolds, with apparent success, across an entire metropolitan region.

Unlike the more familiar Sunbelt stories where a powerful central city—Houston, Dallas, or Phoenix—annexed contiguous suburban municipalities, Nashville’s voter-approved consolidation “proceeded largely on suburban terms.” Consolidation boosted the city’s flagging finances, but it also diluted black voting strength and, at least initially, fortified the white suburban communities that defended segregation.

41k+LlUfjvL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgNashville, of course, had long been highly segregated. Erickson shows how federal policymakers aided and abetted Nashville’s pro-growth elite as they used schools as “organizing nodes” in the creation and reinforcement of the unequal metropolis. Building upon Clarence Perry’s Progressive era concept of a “neighborhood unit” organized around a school, these actors leveraged urban renewal funds during the 1950s and 1960s to jointly expand and increasingly segregate housing and schools. Into the 1970s, they prioritized suburban school construction while closing inner-city schools.

Civil rights attorneys, showing that “de facto” segregation was, in fact, contrary to law, pressed for crosstown and then county-wide busing. They initiated a desegregation lawsuit in 1955 and in 1971 secured a plan that utilized busing to achieve extensive desegregation in more than two-thirds of the district’s schools. And it was precisely Nashville’s unified metropolitan school district that made busing more feasible than elsewhere. Further litigation yielded an expanded 1983 plan in which Metropolitan Nashville became one of the nation’s most successfully desegregated systems. By 1990, when one-third of black schoolchildren nationally attended schools with “highly concentrated” black populations, Nashville had almost no schools with student bodies that were more than 90 percent white or black. Along with Charlotte, Louisville, and Tampa, Nashville would become “one of desegregation’s best-case scenarios.”

What Erickson shows, however, is that numbers alone were poor indicators of success.   “Statistical desegregation” did not translate into a genuine equal educational opportunity. She contends that the ways in which educators, city planners, and judges understood busing ultimately proved deficient. She argues that desegregation plans were crafted to benefit white suburbanites at the expense of inner-city African Americans, who frequently saw their neighborhood schools close as buses shuttled their children to predominantly white institutions in distant suburbs. The “integrated” schools also reinforced inequality through their curricula. Vocational programs, for example, prepared black and white students for racially and gender differentiated labor markets. In effect, much of the problem here stemmed from policies prioritizing schooling’s economic rather than democratic value.

Capital, Nashville, Tennessee, Carl M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As efforts to assuage white resistance outstripped efforts to advance equal educational opportunity, Nashville and the courts abandoned desegregation in 1998. The consequences were dramatic: by 2009, Nashville was trending toward the national norm with more than one-fifth of its black students in “highly concentrated” black schools.

Erickson laments this re-segregation and asserts that “the time may be right to engage with desegregation as an important and necessary American project.” This muted call for desegregation matches her emphasis throughout on the inequalities—rather than the advances—embedded within one of the nation’s most successful efforts to eliminate segregated schooling.

Nashville police officer wielding nightstick holds African American youth at bay during a civil rights march in Nashville, Tennessee, 1964, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This disquieting assessment cautions against mistaking a paradox such as desegregation for a panacea. Yet Erickson’s attention to the metastasizing yet persistent nature of inequality does not suggest the need to abandon either desegregation or its democratic potential. By illuminating the ways individuals and institutions constructed educational inequality, Erickson provides clues for taking it apart.

This book deserves special attention from urban historians for its nuanced analysis of metropolitan desegregation and its revision of conventional explanations of metropolitan stratification. While scholars have typically emphasized housing policies and markets as drivers of stratification, Erickson shows that schools to a significant degree shaped the metropolitan landscape and political economy.

Featured image (at top): Miss Mary Brent, principal of Glenn School, greets pupils, both white and African American, in a previously all-white school, 1957, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

Walter C. Stern is Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focuses on the historical intersection of race and schooling in the urban United States. He is the author of Race and Education in New Orleans: Creating the Segregated City, 1764–1960, and he is working on a book on the intertwined histories of school desegregation and mass incarceration.

Fiscal Fright in NYC: A Review of Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics

Kim Phillips-Fein. Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017. 417pp. $9.98. (Paperback) 
Review by Michael R. Glass

By 1965, a $255 million gap had opened in the New York City budget. To cover the city’s operating expenses, Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. decided to “borrow now, repay later.” After all, he reasoned, “a good loan is better than a bad tax.” His successors, John Lindsay and Abraham Beame, made the same choice. Each mayor turned to short-term loans with the hope that additional tax revenues or federal aid would materialize. They did not. In the spring of 1975, the banks refused to purchase the next round of bond issuances, citing concerns that the city had exceeded its constitutional debt limit. The country’s largest metropolis teetered on the edge of default. Kim Phillips-Fein recounts these events and the social conflicts that followed in Fear City. The result is a magisterial account of the New York City fiscal crisis.


Although critics would attribute the city’s fiscal woes to profligate spending, Phillips-Fein argues that the budget gap was the product of several interlocking structural processes. Deindustrialization steadily undercut the city’s economic foundation, as manufacturers shifted their operations to southern states and then abroad. Federal housing and highway policies siphoned middle-class white residents to the suburbs, depriving the city of their tax receipts. And while the federal government briefly injected additional resources during the War on Poverty, the Nixon and Ford administrations shrank the funding for those programs. City officials were left the stewards of a robust public sector that included tuition-free universities, municipal hospitals, and inexpensive subways, but it all rested upon a dwindling tax base. They plugged the gaps with loans upon loans until the day of reckoning eventually arrived.

Three boys with tough expressions smoking cigarettes, photograph by Bill Cunningham, 1975, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Sophisticated in its methodology, Fear City tells the story of the ensuing crisis from multiple vantage points. The middle chapters focus on the negotiations over bond sales and the terms of a possible aid package from Washington. These meetings triggered a process of elite class formation that brought together investment bankers, corporate executives, and real estate magnates; the crisis “made these upper echelons look to each other.”   As officials begged for their investment, these elites demanded layoffs, service cuts, and tax abatements in return. The last section shifts attention to the communities and institutions hardest hit by austerity and the activists who rallied in their defense. Weaving together multiple archives and toggling between scales, Fear City narrates the crisis from both above and below.

Albert Shanker, Pres of U.F.T. holds report issued by mediators to Mayor Robert Wagner that helped to stop strike threat of teacher, photo by Walter Albertin, 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

What emerges from these divergent perspectives is a crisis that unfolded along competing time horizons. For the members of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC), the agency created to market long-term bonds on behalf of the city, the crisis was a week-to-week scramble to locate investors for the next bond sale. With a deadline looming, for instance, power brokers convinced Albert Shanker, head of the city teachers’ union, to purchase MAC bonds with the teachers’ pension funds after an all-night conversation in his apartment. The union bailout rescued the city hours before it would have declared bankruptcy. For Mayor Abraham Beame and Governor Hugh Carey, who shuttled between meetings at the White House and Capitol Hill in search of aid from tightfisted officials, the fiscal crisis was a succession of deadlines, meetings, and fraught negotiations.


Ordinary residents, meanwhile, experienced service reductions in both moments of intense drama and protracted struggles. During the first round of budget cuts, garbage piled up in the streets, class sizes swelled in the schools, and hundreds of laid-off police officers blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. At Hostos Community College in the South Bronx, students barricaded themselves inside the building for several weeks to prevent its closure. Residents of Williamsburg kept their local firehouse open by occupying it for sixteen months straight, dubbing it the “People’s Firehouse.” Although the city nominally ended the crisis when it re-entered the bond market on its own accord in 1979, many services that had been eliminated were never restored, and rates of poverty, drug addiction, and crime all spiked over the next decade.

African American parishioners arriving at Harlem – Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, photograph by Marilyn Nance, 1975, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Ultimately, the fiscal crisis fundamentally transformed the city. The budget cuts shrank the scope of the public sector, diminishing not only the level of city services but also citizen expectations of government. The years-long specter of default created what Phillips-Fein calls “the politics of inevitability,” which made alternatives to austerity seem nonexistent. To be sure, New York still maintains a comparatively expansive array of public goods: its subway system, while perennially underfunded and marred by constant delays, remains public and viable; its city university system, while no longer tuition-free, remains fairly affordable. At the same time, officials preserve these services by catering to the corporate executives, white-collar professionals, and tourists that now drive the city’s economy, and they court capital investment through public-private partnerships and tax subsidies. Fiscal discipline, efficiency, and private initiative have become the guiding principles of urban governance.

9780805095258_p0_v4_s600x595.jpgWhile Fear City reads as an origin tale for our current age of inequality, historians would do well to project the fiscal crisis backwards as well as forwards. A question that the book raises, but never fully answers, is how a small number of bankers could bring the entire city to its knees by simply refusing a loan. Phillips-Fein claims that city leaders repeatedly “turned to debt” to evade divisive political debates. Mayors certainly used loans to kick the can down the road, but cities had also depended on other debt instruments in the twentieth century. The literal foundation of the modern metropolis—its roads, bridges, and sewers—had been financed, chiefly, with municipal bonds. With each transaction that financiers brokered, they accrued additional power, and when cities ran up deficits, they proved willing to offer additional loans. By the 1970s, American cities (and suburbs and towns) had become dependent on the support of private financiers to deliver public services—both for the long-term bonds that financed the infrastructure and for the short-term loans that plugged the gaps. In other words, the fiscal crisis did not create the dependence on financiers; rather, it revealed the dependence that had been growing for decades.

Phillips-Fein’s comprehensive account opens new avenues of inquiry for other scholars. By framing the fiscal crisis as a monumental turning point, Fear City asks urban historians to chart the fate of cities under the austerity regimes that arose in the late twentieth century, as well as how decades of “borrow now, repay later” had led cities up to the fiscal cliff.

Featured image (at top): New York City Skyline, Charles and Ray Eames, circa 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

Mike Glass is a Ph.D. Candidate in US History at Princeton University. His dissertation explores the history of school finance in suburban Long Island during the postwar era. 

Rethinking “Old Shanghai”: A Review of Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City


By Taoyu Yang

Isabella Jackson. Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 274 pp. $99.99 (cloth).

No Chinese city has attracted as much attention from academics and the public as Shanghai. The most cosmopolitan of Chinese cities, Shanghai for generations has been central both to China’s development and now the global economy. A megacity of 23 million, it is the world’s busiest container port.

A portion of “Plan of Shanghai” (Sheet 1), original scale 1:15,840. “Heliographed at O.S. from drawings of the 1933 Municipal plan [of Shanghai]”, U.S. Army Map Service, 1945 courtesy of WikiCommons
What long distinguished Shanghai from most other Chinese cities was that it was not controlled by Beijing or a single colonial power, but by local governing bodies beholden to their directors and the almighty dollar, the franc and the pound sterling. These local governments functioned almost as city-states. From the 1840s to the 1940s, what is now called “Old Shanghai” was governed by three distinct administrations each having control over different parts of the city. The largest part of the city remained under Chinese control. A second sector, the French Concession, was famed for its cultural and architectural elegance. Finally, the International Settlement was run jointly by British and Americans, including members from various European nations and later Japan and China. But the British in the International Settlement remained dominant until it was overrun by Japan in the Second World War.

Isabella Jackson’s Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City focuses on The International Settlement and especially its governance by the Shanghai Municipal Council (SMC). The focus is appropriate. While the International Settlement constituted only a portion of the city, this sector dominated the larger city politically, financially and culturally.

Old Shanghai,” March 3, 1920 courtesy of WikiCommons

Jackson argues that the history of the SMC brings into sharp focus what she calls “transnational colonialism,” a type of authority exercised not by big powers but by residents—Westerners and prosperous Chinese and Japanese. This distinctive form of localized colonialism broadly shaped the lives of Shanghai residents and the development of their city. Shanghai was not the only Chinese city governed in this way. Notably, Tianjin, another prominent treaty port in northern China was also shaped by the complexities of transnational colonialism.

Throughout the book, Jackson does a wonderful job of elaborating the diverse functions of the SMC and its idiosyncratic legal status. First and foremost, the SMC served as a conventional city council managing police, fire, and sanitary functions, though, exceptionally, it could also support its own quasi-military force. At times SMC also operated like a company board of directors, with its leaders elected not by shareholders but by a limited number of local tax payers. SMC operations were under-written by tax receipts and revenues sufficient to make governance self-supporting. Thus, the SMC did not have to look to Whitehall or Washington for financial assistance. Jackson notes that transnational dynamics, connections to global capital and the multi-national composition of its membership allowed the SMC to shape the growth and development not just of the International Settlement but also Shanghai itself. Though fundamentally undemocratic—it openly discriminated against the majority of poor Chinese and the many impoverished Russians living in Shanghai—the SMC could also be seen as a benevolent oligarchy, which introduced modern medical and sanitary practices to the city.

Tennis club, Shanghai, Kiangsu province, China, between 1890 and 1923, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The most provocative claim that Jackson makes concerns the nature of colonialism in China. In seeking to define colonialism in China, scholars have utilized terms such as “informal empire” and “semi-colonialism” that seek to capture the qualitative differences between colonialism in Shanghai and in other settings such as British-run India. Jackson contends that these terms tend to downplay the influence of colonialism on Shanghai by characterizing what the city experienced as “lighter-touch” imperial control. Jackson argues that the SMC’s touch was not especially light. The SMC dominated Shanghai as much as any as any imperial power might dominate a colonial city. But the nature of SMC’s domination and repression was complex, and that is the story that Jackson tells so well.   And in giving us insights into the “transnational nature of colonialism” we begin to see what made Shanghai distinctive. We are indebted to Jackson for opening up a way to understand a special form of colonialism.

Despite what may seem a narrow focus on a single part of a single city, Jackson’s study should interest a broad range of readers. Thematically, it addresses numerous topics critical to our understanding of urban history and municipal governance, including global financial connections, policing, public health, and social reform. Methodologically, it offers insights into how transnational elements shape local institutions. It is no exaggeration to say that scholars of urban history, Shanghai studies, modern Chinese history, colonial studies, and transnational history will all find Jackson’s monograph necessary reading.

Featured image (at top): Old Shanghai Teahouse, Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai, China, photograph by Indy Randhawa, January 16, 2013

Taoyu Yang is a PhD student of modern Chinese history at University of California, Irvine. His research interests concern colonial history, urban history, history of modern China, and critical historiography. His dissertation project examines the role of multi-imperial interaction in the production of urban space in Tianjin and Shanghai, two of the largest treaty port cities in China from 1840s to 1940s.

At Street Level in Mike Wallace’s Greater Gotham

By Thai Jones

Wallace, Mike. Greater Gotham: A History of New York City From 1898 to 1919 (New York: Oxford University Press,2018). 1182pp. $45.ISBN 978-0-19-511635-9

 Greater Gotham opens on New Year’s Eve, 1897, with thousands massing in Union Square before stepping off to join a parade celebrating consolidation of the five boroughs—including what were at the time the nation’s largest (New York) and fourth-largest (Brooklyn) cities—into one gigantic metropolis (7). “It had long been a civic tradition,” writes Mike Wallace, “for Gothamites to take to the streets” (3). While the city fathers orchestrated the parade, the myriad of unsanctioned street melees that followed often appeared so dangerous and disruptive as to threaten the very stability of the city. A mis-en-scène of conflict dominates the two decades examined in Greater Gotham.

This long-awaited second installment of Wallace’s Gotham series was intended to cover more than twenty years. But the significance and weight of an era when New York arguably stood at its zenith among all the world’s cities cannot be overstated. Also, the author and his research assistants had to contend with a mountain of archival research. The twenty years covered here takes up more than 1,000 pages, almost as many as the earlier volume required to tell the story of two and half centuries. To manage and reconcile both micro- and macro-histories of the city, Greater Gotham surveys the “historical landscape” from the altitude of a satellite, jetliner, helicopter, and a bird in flight. These elevations situate the city in global, regional and national networks. But the essential vantage point here is the street. That is where the action takes place. The din of streets overwhelms all else.

The flat boomers of Gotham, Albert Levering, April 11, 1906, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Although the book dutifully tackles an encyclopedic range of municipal issues from the rise of skyscrapers to the consolidation of Wall Street finance, it is Greater Gotham’s attention to the politics of confrontation that sets it apart. Almost every chapter here features some episode of unrest—race riots and rent strikes, suffrage rallies and Labor Day parades, and even mob violence against reckless automobile drivers (240). For New Yorkers of the time, such street scenes began to shape a certain cultural and psychological outlook. It was no accident, then, that the Ash Can School of painters began “relish[ing] crowds” (867), and that Tin Pan Alley composers would rhapsodize over the “Sidewalks of New York” (486). In political circles, the importance of demonstrating dissent was clear to the likes of “Big Bill” Haywood, who as a leader of the Industrial Workers of the World could urge the city’s leftists to take to the streets rather than “…sitting around waiting for the next election” (732). This rhetoric inspired such anxiety that the chief of police could extoll the new subway system as a way to “absolutely preclude the possibility of riots in New York.” Cops could be sent by rapid transit to any flashpoint in the city (234).

Unruly, fascinating, and beyond control, the city’s street demonstrations were the local iteration of global experience. The hundred thousand or so Russian Jews landing annually at Ellis Island were themselves reacting to street violence—pogroms and the Czarist massacre of Bloody Sunday. Italians—arriving at twice the rate of Jews—were fleeing a repressive state that had murderously suppressed bread riots in Milan, Naples, and Rome. In the Southern United States, “grisly lynchings and pogrom-like riots” (807) sent thousands of African Americans northbound on steamers and trains.

Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) demonstration, New York City, April 11, 1914, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Wallace’s earlier Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (written with Edwin G. Burrows and published in 1999) was also replete with disorder, including the fearsome Draft Riots of 1863, perhaps the most catastrophic urban uprising in American history. But in the disorders of the Progressive Era, Wallace sees something new. “Slowly, remarkably, for perhaps the first time in New York’s history,” he writes of a 1909 women’s garment workers strike, “a mass labor uprising in the streets began to win support from the city’s mandarins—or, more precisely, from their wives and daughters” (714).

Newspaper row, New York, 1906, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Beginning in the early twentieth century, in his telling, and continuing sporadically through to the present, New Yorkers seeking change fought for it in the streets. Though the city showed scant tolerance for violent demonstrations, activists in time won significant victories as this city, the quintessence of capitalism, also began to emerge as the nation’s center of progressivism.

For Wallace, who first engaged with radical politics as a graduate student in the campus protests at Columbia University in 1968, the politics of confrontation are central to understanding the city.[1] More recently, Occupy Wall Street showed how a protest movement, especially when confronted by a brutal police response, could effect change in mentalities and policies.

Wallace, who wrote widely on Occupy in its moment of fluorescence,[2] likely had these upheavals in mind while reconstituting the feverish cityscape of the 1910s, a period which he summarizes as having “witnessed nonstop battling between classes, races, ethnic groups, genders, and religions” (1052). Like the 2010s, those years saw extreme income disparity and an upsurge of popular frustration at the government. With economic opportunities limited and formal political process discredited, New Yorkers—a century apart—took the reasonable step and plunged into the streets.


Featured image (at top): He shouldn’t have any trouble in choosing, Louis Dalrymple, October 13, 1897, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

Thai Jones is the Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. He is the author of More Powerful Than Dynamite: Radicals, Plutocrats, Progressives, and New York’s Year of Anarchy (Bloomsbury, 2012).

[1] Reminiscences of Michael Wallace (1983), Student Movements of the 1960s project, Oral History Archives at Columbia, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

[2] Mike Wallace, “Before Occupy Wall Street,” Jan. 5, 2012,

Book Review: City of Inmates by Kelly Lytle Hernández

Kelly Lytle Hernández. City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

We are living in an era of human caging on a massive scale. Each night, 2.2 million people fall asleep locked inside one of more than 6,000 prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers, and juvenile correctional facilities in the United States – a vast network of cages that sprawls across the land of the free.

Historians have done tremendous work documenting the expansion of incarceration in the late 20th century. The war on crime and the advent of militarized policing were strategic efforts to eradicate Black rebellion in the late 1960s and 1970s. The war on drugs, draconian sentencing laws, and the dramatic expansion of zero-tolerance policing in the 1980s and 1990s caused the prison population to nearly quadruple between 1980 and 2000.

And yet, it is significant that Kelly Lytle Hernández’s City of Inmates ends in the year that most narratives of mass incarceration begin – 1965 – concluding with the event that is often considered the catalyzing moment of the late-20th century carceral “frontlash”: the Watts Uprising (195). In this framing, Hernández joins scholars excavating the roots of the carceral state deep in the U.S. past, such as in Reconstruction-era convict labor and the early 20th-century criminalization of Black life.

The Los Angeles lens, however, offers a radically new perspective. The settler colonial and immigrant history of California indisputably shaped the caging policies and practices that emerged in the City of Angels. In six distinct histories spanning nearly two centuries, Hernández locates the origins of the carceral state in longstanding efforts to eliminate Native populations as sovereign entities, to control and exploit the labor of non-settler populations, and to exclude racialized immigrants from settler territory.

A Los Angeles police officer, armed with a shotgun, searches bag of African-American woman while another woman holding baby watches, August 14, 1965, New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Hernández excavates the legal architecture and cultural assumptions that made incarceration the answer to so many distinct questions: Indigenous resistance to colonial labor regimes, vagrancy among white male seasonal workers, the presence of Chinese laborers on the West Coast, the growing Mexican population in the borderlands, the increasing activism of Black L.A. – these posed distinct problems for a white supremacist settler society, and yet the solution to each of them was the same: incarceration. Why?

Hernández answers that incarceration is a form of elimination, and elimination is inherent to the settler colonial project. Adopting incarceration as a strategy to remove Native peoples from settler L.A., to undermine their resistance, and to compel them to labor for a society from which they were simultaneously excluded in every meaningful way, Los Angeles officials established a template that would be flexibly applied in subsequent eras to “tramps,” Chinese, Mexicans, and African Americans as the city grew.

Evidence for this recycling abounds in City of Inmates, but the clearest example is the use of public order charges to incarcerate a shifting array of “targeted populations” throughout the city’s history (1). Beginning in the 1850s, Los Angeles officials criminalized Indigenous “vagrancy” and swept up Tongva and other Native peoples to work on roads and public works projects in chain gangs, including auctioning convicts to private employers.

By 1910, Los Angeles had one of the largest jail systems in the nation, and the labor of its convicts built many of the city’s roads and public infrastructure, including Sunset Boulevard. By this era, nearly all of the city’s incarcerated were white, largely temporarily unemployed seasonal workers, targeted for removal on public order charges. As the Los Angeles Herald advocated in 1902, “It is infinitely better to take tramps and vagrants into custody on minor charges, than to permit them to roam about the city unmolested” (quoted on 51).

Broadway at 8th Street, Los Angeles, California, ca. 1920, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As the city’s Mexican and Black populations grew, they became the focus of L.A.’s carceral apparatus. From 1928 to 1939, 86 percent of the LAPD’s arrests of Mexicans were for public order charges. In the same era, Black activists protested the LAPD’s overzealous enforcement of those charges in Black neighborhoods, arguing that it “unfairly corralled African Americans, namely the poor, into jail for nonviolent crimes” (159).

City of Inmates concludes with the voices of several activists fighting mass incarceration today. Their stories illustrate how public order arrests still operate to remove people from their neighborhoods, now in service of gentrification. As Hernández makes clear, selective enforcement of public order laws strip targeted populations of their “right to be” in the city (148).

Chinese pharmacy, Los Angeles, California, 1899, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

With its groundbreaking emphasis on immigrant incarceration, City of Inmates “sutures the split” between histories of mass incarceration and immigrant exclusion (5). This is an essential intervention, and not merely a historiographic one; viewing them as separate systems blinds us to their ongoing relationship. The carceral and nativist states have long shared overlapping targets, discourses, strategies, and even the same literal structures.

Hernández focuses on the 1892 Geary Act (explicitly aimed at removing Chinese laborers from the nation) and the Supreme Court cases it provoked, which determined that deportation is not punishment for a crime, but that immigrants could nonetheless be legally be detained during the deportation or exclusion process. These decisions formed the judicial anchor for our contemporary system of immigrant detention and deportation, the legal framework by which immigrants are denied the most basic protections of the criminal justice system, such as the right to counsel or protection from indefinite detention.

With unlawful residence thus removed from the purview of criminal law, legislators responded to the growing Mexican population in the Southwest by criminalizing unlawful entry in 1929, making first-time offenses a misdemeanor and unlawful reentry a felony. Within a decade, tens of thousands of Mexicans had been imprisoned for illegally entering the United States. This dramatic influx of immigrant prisoners led Congress to expand the federal penal system in the 1930s, including constructing the first federal prison in the U.S.-Mexico border region in 1932.

Mexican quarter of Los Angeles. One quarter mile from the City Hall, Dorothea Lange, February 1936, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

City of Inmates demonstrates incontrovertibly that the systems of immigrant exclusion and mass incarceration emerged together and fed each other. Incarceration was a weapon in the war against immigration, and anti-immigrant policies drove the expansion of the carceral state. This is an important lesson for those of us working to build a world free from human caging.

Los Angeles shaped and was shaped by national transformations, and Hernández moves seamlessly between urban, national, and transnational frames. Lest we feel compelled to dismiss L.A.’s story as too unique to be representative, Hernández reminds us that Los Angeles locks up more people than any city in the United States – the nation, of course, that imprisons more people than any country on earth. Los Angeles is, in this sense, the global epicenter of the human caging catastrophe, and its history offers insight for us all.

Llana Barber is associate professor of American Studies at SUNY Old Westbury. Her first book, Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2017, and won that year’s Kenneth Jackson Award from the Urban History Association. She is currently researching the history of militarized exclusion of Haitian migrants and the formation of the nativist state.

Featured image (at top): Chinese Features, La Fiesta de Las Fleures [i.e. Flores], Los Angeles, Cal., c. 1903, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Book Review: John Strausbaugh’s Victory City

Strausbaugh, John. Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers during World War II. (New York: Twelve, 2018). 497pp. $30. ISBN 1455567485

Reviewed by Michael L. Levine

Victory City tells what it was like to live in New York during the Great Depression and World War II. The book may not break new scholarly ground, but it succeeds admirably in bringing a time and place to life and as such can serve as an inviting introduction to students for whom the New Deal and World War II may seem quite remote. Students today are as far removed from the New Deal as those in the thirties were from the Mexican War.

Reading Victory City is a bit like coming across a yellowing newspaper in an old trunk. In that regard John Strausbaugh exercises a deft touch in selecting compelling details. Consider:   During the Depression three out of ten Brooklyn doctors lost phone service for nonpayment of bills. Doctors, mind you! How did ordinary families get by? Meanwhile some of New York’s largest corporations and banks got by– hedging their bets by investing in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy

New York, New York. Sidewalk merchant in the Jewish section, Marjory Collins, August 1942, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

We are reminded that during the thirties and forties New York was home as almost no place else to tremendous concentrations of a wide range of ethnic groups. Of particular interest is Strausbaugh’s take on the world’s largest Jewish city. When it came to political confidence in the thirties and forties, the Jewish population in New York seemed less assertive and more uncertain than we might imagine. To retaliate for Hitler’s boycott of Jewish shops in Germany, Jewish New Yorkers called for a boycott of German-owned stores, including Macy’s. Although Macy’s was owned by the Strauses, a Jewish family, it had emigrated from Germany.

Along these lines consider that Arthur Sulzberger, an assimilated Jew, didn’t want his family’s paper, The New York Times, to be seen as Jewish. So, in the thirties, the paper “methodically,” to use Strausbaugh’s words, downplayed news about the persecution of Jews in Europe. Other American Jewish leaders also hesitated to speak out in favor of admitting Jewish refugees for fear of rousing the country’s many anti-Semites. During World War II Washington’s policy toward European Jews was based on the idea that a more aggressive effort to save the Jews from the Nazis would make it appear that the conflict was “a war for the Jews,” in which case Americans would be less willing to make sacrifices.

Hitler Street in Long Island
From The Atlantic: This “Adolf Hitler Strasse” is a street running through “Camp Siegfried,” a summer camp of the German American Bund in Yaphank, Long Island, New York, Bettman Archive, Getty

Strausbaugh also reminds us that while New York was a center of Jewry, it was also very much a German city. New Yorkers of German ancestry (numbering three quarters of million) may not have mostly been pro-Hitler, but Nazism unashamedly maintained a conspicuous presence throughout the metropolitan area. In the thirties, Fritz Kuhn’s German American Bund ran a summer camp on Long Island where youngsters uniformed like Hitler youth marched up and down streets named for Hitler, Goring and Goebbels. On German Day in 1938, the camp drew 40,000 visitors along with 2,000 Storm Trooper guards. The Long Island Railroad thoughtfully obliged by running a Camp Siegfried Special. In 1939 the Bund drew 22,000 to a rally at Madison Square Garden.

World War II Era Harlem courtesy of Cole Phelps at

Strausbaugh points out that FDR drew the best and brightest—disproportionately New Yorkers—to Washington. If FDR was less concerned with an employee’s religion, gender and race than previous presidents, then some measure of credit must be given to his enlightened First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. These were the years when appreciative African Americans abandoned Lincoln’s GOP for the New Deal. But Strausbaugh points out that all was not well in the matter of race relations even in progressive Gotham. The 1943 Harlem Riots reflected the city’s oppressive and discriminatory housing and employment practices which made life for Africans Americans so difficult to endure.

A caution: Victory City may prove disconcerting at a time when “enemy of the people,” a vicious slogan calling to mind the brutal authoritarianism of the thirties, now finds renewed currency. When it comes to protecting civil rights and civil liberties—on guard!

Michael L. Levine holds a doctorate in American history from Rutgers. A long-time freelance editor and writer, he has staffed the A. Philip Randolph Institute and has served as editor-in-chief of National Productivity Review and as Associate Editor of Political Profiles, a multi-volume series featuring biographies of contemporary political leaders.

 Featured image (a top): World War II Era Harlem courtesy of Cole Phelps at



Exhibit Review: Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis at the Museum of the City of New York

By Robert B. Carey, Ph.D.

Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis.
Museum of the City of New York until April 28th

Review of Germ City and Related Podcasts
Radio Station WYNC

We live in a time of New York Triumphalism—it is hard to avoid the celebratory tone and the accompanying music that rehearses New York’s being the World City that dazzles and amazes. It was not always thus. Cities like New York in the 18th and 19th century were places where people died with alarming regularity as outbreaks of cholera, influenza, small pox, yellow fever and diphtheria killed thousands in seemingly unstoppable waves. Doctors, scientists, reformers and of course the clergy struggled to understand such devastation.

Jacob A. Riis, An Italian Home under a Dump, c. 1890. Museum of the City of New York, Jacob A. Riis Collection,

Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis at the Museum of The City of New York walks the viewer into an ever-widening glade of understanding and an appreciation of the eventual success which came as scientists began to grapple with the fact that the microscopic could be deadly. Practitioners and city public health offices were forced to abandon their inherited theory of disease—bodily humors balanced by bleeding and emetics—as the appropriate approach. Instead they began to learn how to deal with the specifics of various afflictions. Disease was no longer a matter of puckish humor; it was a specific ailment that happened in specific ways.

Early notions of public health, such as quarantining infected patients, gave way to more informed treatments. Some of the great breakthroughs introduced even before Pasteur’s germ theory of disease resulted from improved sanitation—a clean water supply and a dedicated system for the removal of waste meant that cholera would no longer ravage poor communities where water was drawn from shallow contaminated wells. Germ City does particularly well in giving the viewer a lively sense of the degree to which the city’s growth ultimately depended on the development of an improved water/sewer infrastructure along with health-related research and educational activities.

What the exhibit does not do, except tangentially, is to invite the viewer to come to grips with the moralization of disease—the blame-the-victim attitude in which the affliction was seen as rooted in the patient’s sinfulness. Why were the poor more likely to succumb to tuberculosis or cholera or yellow fever? They were dirty, drunk and lascivious. The film by Mariam Ghani which uses Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor raises some of those questions on the way into the exhibit, as does the AIDS material in one of the displays.

D. Appleton and Company, Sanitary and Social Chart of the Fourth Ward of the City of New York …, c. 1865. Museum of the City of New York, Gift of the University of Western Ontario, 37.152.8

More detail about early forms of hospitalization would have provided a fuller reading of how the city responded to epidemics. It is however the display of the artifacts that practitioners developed for treatments that gives this show a very useful tactile quality. This material approach to depicting medical history calls to mind the work of the writer/physician Sherwin Nuland. Though Dr. Nuland is not directly referenced here, we see his influence as he underscored in his work on medicine, doctors and how we live and die, the centrality of “seeing.” Nuland argued that we have to see what is happening and why. We do not need an “idea” only of what ails us; we need granular specificity. That essential insight informs Germ City. Through this deeply informative exhibition you begin to understand the uncertainty, confusion and insights regarding the effects of what van Leeuwenhook called “the cavorting wee beasties” that both sustain and end your life.

Robert B. Carey, Ph.D. is Professor of History at Empire State College/SUNY Emeritus

Featured Image (at top): Dr, John C. Peters, “Routes of Asiatic Cholera” map from Harper’s Weekly, April 25, 1885. Courtesy of The New York Academy of Medicine Library

Write a Book Review for The Metropole!

Dear Metropolers,

What recent or forthcoming books would you be interested in reviewing for The Metropole? Reviews generally run 500 to 750 words, and they should be completed for posting during the spring or summer. Here are some examples of past reviews.

This spring we will be posting:

Llana Barber on City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion and the Rise of Human Caging in LA, 1771- 1965 by Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Alan Lesoff on Escaping The Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive Era Conservation by Benjamin Heber Johnson

Thai Jones on Greater Gotham: A History of NYC from 1898 to 1919 by Mike Wallace

John  W. Steinberg on The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Michael Glass on Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics by Kim Phillips-Fein

Sam Wetherwell on Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement by Rosemary Wakeman

Walter Stern on Making The Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits by Ansley T. Erickson

David Yee on A City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City by Matthew Vitz

Taoyu Yang on Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City by Isabella Jackson.

Sun-Young Park on Paris and The Cliche of History by Catherine Clark

E-mail the editors (by clicking on their names below) detailing your interest and when you would be able to complete the review.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Jim Wunsch

Jacob Bruggeman

Book Review Editors

Hyping Social Infrastructure: A Review of Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for the People

Klinenberg, Eric. Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. (New York, New York: Crown, 2018). 336 pp. $28. ISBN 978-1-5247-6116-5

By Jacob Bruggeman 

Americans today consistently hear about the differences in wealth, geography, identity and politics that divide us, but they hear rather less about the forces of community and commonality which bring us together. Most welcome then is sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s new study of what he calls “social infrastructure,” which refers to “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact” and that counter fragmentation. Palaces for the People does not imply that social infrastructure is a suitable substitute for “well-designed hard infrastructure”—the bones upon which communities are built—but it is a clear, forceful argument for social infrastructure as the lifeblood that keeps communities healthy.

Klinenberg takes off from, of all people, the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, whose brutal anti-labor policies did so much to fracture the body politic. But once retired, Carnegie came to understand that free libraries served as places in which diverse populations could converge and where community could be formed and strengthened. Carnegie called libraries “palaces for the people,” and thanks to his immense wealth and progressive philanthropic agenda, he built twenty-eight hundred palaces all over the world. In Palaces for the People sociologist Klinenberg begets a new defense of old-fashioned libraries and other public and private institutions which he believes are essential if a community is to flourish.

The Phoenix Carnegie Library, now known as the Carnegie Center, is a historic site in Phoenix, Arizona’s Library Park, Carol M. Highsmith, March 3, 2018, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Though libraries take up a prominent place in Palaces for the People, social infrastructure is not just constituted by and in branch libraries: it is cultivated in community gardens, schools and universities, and the wide assortment of voluntary associations that Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of in the 1800s. One could even argue that communities’ police forces, if they are dedicated to building ties to a place and its people rather sending them to prison, can be an essential element of social infrastructure. Klinenberg’s idea of social infrastructure, however, is generally limited to public institutions and places. Palaces for the People is not problematic for this focus, but readers may well put down the book wanting to better understand the role of businesses in bolstering social infrastructure. But in regard to the popular twenty-first century argument that humans are only socializing with their iPhones, Klinenberg asserts that despite the apparent dominance of all things digital, face-to-face interactions will remain “… the building blocks of all public life” and that physical interactions between people will necessarily define social interaction for generations to come.

When a community’s social infrastructure is deficient or missing, we see the emergence of inequities, declining civic life and polarized politics. To address these problems solutions are inevitably put forth: Economic solutions (which often take the form of development at the local or national level), technocratic solutions (such as those engineered by planners and policy makers), and civic solutions (including the rather artificial efforts to establish community groups and voluntary associations). We can properly and forcefully demand additional funding for schools, for low cost housing and health care, but we may be overlooking the need to address a deficient social infrastructure, the “missing piece of the puzzle” that pulls together and makes workable economic, technocratic, and civic proposals.

The Carnegie Library, erected in 1904 in in Trinidad, Colorado, on the Purgatoire River on the northern end of the Raton Pass leading into New Mexico, Carol M. Highsmith, June 8, 2016, Prints and Photographs Division

Klinenberg argues that social infrastructure, when robust, “fosters contact, mutual support, and collaboration among friends and neighbors; when degraded, it inhibits social activity, leaving families and individuals to fend for themselves.” No one showed this better than Klinenberg himself in his study of Chicago’s weeklong heat wave in July 1995, which was among the deadliest in American history. Survival rates in the city’s poor Hispanic neighborhoods were often far better than other neighborhoods precisely because of a superior Hispanic social infrastructure emphasizing visitation, self-help and care for the elderly. Social isolation killed all too many—more than 700—who died at home alone.

Klinenberg places his book in the context of the polarized politics of a nation’s   “…splintered social and cultural geography.” But what makes the book so useful is that it is neither strident nor pontifical. Palaces serves as an entry point for readers interested in learning more about inequality, civil society, and polarization in America and how to deal with those concerns. Indeed, it gains force and traction from the fact that it is grounded on a strong and growing body of literature on civil society and urban design, including classic works by Jane Jacobs, Robert Putnam, Elijah Anderson, and Ray Oldenburg. Just as important, Palaces is a work of scholarship that stakes a middle ground between market-based and state-based approaches to contemporary problems, and as such, it invites support from a broad spectrum of groups and leaders.

Finally, though Klinenberg is no Luddite, he does invite historians and social scientists to put aside our spreadsheets and Power Point presentations, instead asking us to renew and deepen an appreciation for specific places in our research. Furthermore, Klinenberg guides his readers—many of whom are not academics, but members of the general public—to the realization that each community and city is unique and that we should be wary of using quantitative data alone to generalize about their social conditions. Ultimately, if Palaces convinces readers of anything, it is that the goings-on of a community, and the places in which the things go on, must be grounded in local institutions—in palaces made by and for the people.

Jacob Bruggeman is an honors student in his fourth year at Miami University with majors in history and political science, and a combined BA–MA program in political science. Jacob was recently honored for his research as one of fifteen national recipients of the Gilder Lehrman History Scholar award, and he is one of two Joanna Jackson Goldman Scholars at Miami. Next fall he will begin coursework for a MPhil in Economic and Social History at Cambridge University. 

Featured image (at top): The Carnegie Public Library in Bryan, the oldest existing Carnegie Library in Texas, Carol M. Highsmith, June 12, 2014, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress