History 233 Reading Guide

The Northeast:  Changing Spatial Relationships and the Rise of the City

  • Simeon J. Crowther, "Urban Growth in the Mid-Atlantic States, 1785-1850," Journal of Economic History 36.3 (1976), 624-644.   JSTOR
  • Gary B. Nash, "The Social Evolution of Preindustrial American Cities, 1700-1820:  Reflections and New Directions," Journal of Urban History 13 (1987), 115-145.  (e-reserve)


  • According to Crowther, how has the process of urban development generally been explained?  What new approaches and perspectives does he propose?
  • How does Crowther describe and explain New York City's rapid growth from 1790 to 1820, especially in comparison to Philadelphia?
  • What changes in population growth and urban development after 1815 does he describe?
  • How does he account for those changes?
  • Gary Nash describes both a process of change and the location of change in the social evolution of eighteenth-century cities.  What interpretation does he offer for those changes?
  • What does he emphasize about the diversity of urban communities in colonial and pre-industrial cities?  What kind of diversity does he describe, and what were the consequences of that diversity?
  • How does he characterize the changing "social geography" of American cities in the late eighteenth century?
  • What mental and behavioral responses to those structural changes does he describe?  What was the significance of the resilience and adaptability of the residents?