Russo (emeritus, McMaster Univ.; Keepers of Our Past: Local Historical Writing in the United States) presents a vivid, bittersweet journey through four centuries of evolution and change in America's small towns. In this topical and meticulous study of charismatic America, he explores the consequences of social and technological change on the political, economic, social, and cultural patterns of town life. Russo places towns, typically founded as real estate ventures, at the head of political and economic influence in rural America. After examining the relationships among town life, social stability, and meaningful cultural values, he describes how improvements in transportation, communications, and technology led to the diminished influence of U.S. towns and their eventual transformation into a pale replica of urban life. He concludes with the rueful observation that "life in small towns gradually became indistinguishable from the cities." Russo writes with linguistic intensity. He has produced a tightly woven and convincing work of fact, change, and consequence. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries. John E. Hodgkins, Yarmouth, ME
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The enduring image of the American town is largely one of nostalgic ideals of community. Russo draws on the scholarship of anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and economists to survey four centuries of American towns' development. He notes the distinctions and commonalities in their formation and growth; their sites; and their political, social, economic, and cultural aspects. Proceeding chronologically from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, Russo first looks at parallels between early American towns and their European counterparts, some towns' evolution from preexisting Indian villages, and later the contributions of African village cultures when slaves were brought to America. He examines how the politics of colonialism and the later economics of towns as trade centers determined how, where, and when towns were established; considers the pioneering push westward and the impact of rail transport in transforming towns into cities; and concludes with a fascinating discussion of towns in myth and reality. Vanessa Bush
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