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BookReviewRevised - Steimel 1 Robert Steimel December 7...

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Steimel 1 Robert Steimel December 7, 2007 HIST-215.01 Social Forces That Shaped America City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth Century America By Gunther Barth In City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth Century America , Dr. Gunther Barth argues that a new urban culture developed over the course of the 19 th Century as a result of large population growth in the major urban areas of the United States of America. Barth believes that the creation of this urban culture came about by fixing problems frequently found in large, diverse cities, such as the search for privacy and personal space, assimilation and communication for immigrants, and ways to spend leisure time. The settlers, a group that includes many European immigrants, former black slaves, and people from rural America, moved to these large urban areas because these areas offered the best chance at obtaining jobs, which would better their life and the lives of their family members. Barth strongly argues that all of these new settlers in American urban cities attached themselves to “a common urban identity” (229). While all cities certainly share traits, one must question the logic behind the argument that tens of millions of people from many different ethnic backgrounds all adapted the same uniform urban cultural identity. Born and raised in Germany, Dr. Gunther Barth served in the German military during World War II. He fought in Africa, Russia and Europe and was twice wounded, before British troops captured him and made him a prisoner of war. After he was
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Steimel 2 discharged, he attended a university in Cologne, where he was awarded a fellowship to study at Oregon University. After graduating from Oregon, Barth received his doctorate from Harvard, where he wrote Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States, 1850-1870 , about how temporary workers from China were exploited by their fellow countrymen and Americans to work in a mine in Arizona. This publication clashed with traditional views held by respected historians about the history of the American West. In 1975 Barth published Instant Cities about the foundation and growth of San Francisco and Denver. Bitter Strength and Instant Cities familiarized Barth with the growth and urbanization of cities, something heavily discussed in City People . Dr. Gunther Barth divided City People into six separate chapters (with an introduction and epilogue) that show how the evolving urban culture solved five important problems during this period of urbanization. “Divided Space” dealt with the layout of urban areas and the problems with housing in 19 th Century cities. Prior to the large influx of settlers, room existed in urban areas for single-family homes, but as the population rose, these houses were demolished for tenements, and later apartment houses.
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