In the early twentieth century, America was transformed from a predominantly agricultural nation to one whose population resided mostly in cities. Yet rural areas continued to hold favored status in the country's political life.
For prominent figures in the social sciences, city planning, and real estate who were anxious about the future of cities, this obsession with the agrarian past inspired a new campaign for urban reform. They called for ongoing programs of natural resource management to be extended to maintain and improve cities.
Jennifer S. Light finds a new understanding of the history of urban renewal in the United States in the rise and fall of the American conservation movement. The professionals Light examines came to view America's urban landscapes as ecological communities requiring scientific management on par with forests and farms. The Nature of Cities brings together environmental and urban history to reveal how, over four decades, this ecological vision shaped the development of cities around the nation.
Jennifer S. Light is a professor at the School of Communication and the Departments of History and Sociology at Northwestern University and Faculty Associate at the Institute for Policy Research. She is the author of From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America, also published by Johns Hopkins.
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Revisiting American Antiurbanism1. The City Is an Ecological Community2. The City Is a National Resource3. A Life Cycle Plan for Chicago4. From Natural Law to State Law5. A Nation of Renewable CitiesConclusion: From Ecology to SystemNotesEssay on SourcesIndex