Business, College of


Date of this Version

June 1980


Published by The Journal of Economic History 40:2 (June 1980), pp. 438-440. Copyright © 1980 The Economic History Association; published by Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


The urbanization-city development process in American history has been the focus of numerous scholarly investigations. Economic historians in particular, bringing the perspective and methods of economics to bear, have made significant contributions to this burgeoning literature. In Dimensions in Urban History the Hollingsworths propose a broader, more ambitious undertaking: the application of the wide panopoly of social science concepts and theory to understand better the historical process of urban development. As such this book lays claim to a wide potential readership.

The text is divided into a brief introduction and four chapters. The introduction and first chapter form the core of the authors' treatise. In these 56 pages the authors first re- strict their analysis to "middle-sized" cities containing between 10,000 and 25,000 in- habitants in 1900 and not exceeding 250,000 during the entire period since 1870. Second, and more importantly, utilizing concepts from various social sciences they attempt to identify certain "ideal types" that both differentiate middle-sized cities at a point in time and explain their development over time. The goal in developing their typologies, as in all social science theorizing, is to simplify or abstract from reality in order better to explain reality. The reality they seek to explain is ". . . the way in which social and economic structure become intertwined with political structures, political culture, and situational factors, for it is the variation in the interaction of structural, cultural, and situational factors which is responsible for the diverse urban configurations which exist" (pp. 12-13).

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