Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago

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University of Chicago Press, May 22, 2005 - History - 628 pages
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Shock Cities is environmental history of the highest order. This searching work is the first trans-Atlantic study to examine the industrial city in holistic terms, looking at the transformation of its land, water, and air. Harold L. Platt demonstrates how the creation of industrial ecologies spurred the reorganization of urban areas into separate spheres, unhealthy slums in the center and garden estates in the suburbs. By comparing Chicago and Manchester, Platt also shows how the ruling classes managed the political creation of urban space to ensure financial gain—often to the environmental detriment of both regions.

Shock Cities also recasts the age of industry within a larger frame of nature. Frightening epidemics and unnatural "natural disasters" forced the city dwellers onto the path of environmental reform. Crusaders for social justice such as Chicago's Jane Addams and Manchester's Charles Rowley led class-bridging campaigns to clean up the slums. Women activists and other "municipal housekeepers" promoted regulations to reduce air pollution. Public health experts directed efforts to improve sanitation.

Out of these reform movements, the Progressives formulated new concepts of environmental conservation and regional planning. Comparing the two cities, Platt highlights the ways in which political culture and institutions act to turn social geography into physical shapes on the ground. This focus on the political formation of urban space helps illuminate questions of social and environmental justice. Shock Cities will be of enormous value to students of ecology, technology, urban planning, and public health in the Western world.

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The Industrial City and the Paradox of Progress
2 They Are All Little Manchesters
3 Mudhole in the Prairie
Chicago and Environmental Profligacy
Manchester and Environmental Catastrophe
Reforming industrial cities
Public Health and the Politics of Environmental Reform
9 The Environmental Justice Movement in Manchester
10 The Environmental Justice Movement in Chicago
Water Supply inChicago andManchester
Sanitation Science in Manchester and Chicago
Pollution and Class Politics in Manchester
Pollution and Gender Politics in Chicago
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About the author (2005)

Harold L. Platt is professor of history at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of City Building in the New South: The Growth of Public Services in Houston, Texas, 1830-1920 and The Electric City: Energy and the Growth of the Chicago Area, 1880-1930. He is also the editor of Cities and Catastrophe: Coping with Emergency in European History.

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