The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago
Shock Cities also recasts the age of industry within a larger frame of nature. Frightening epidemics and unnatural "natural disasters" forced the city dwellers onto the path of environmental reform. Crusaders for social justice such as Chicago's Jane Addams and Manchester's Charles Rowley led class-bridging campaigns to clean up the slums. Women activists and other "municipal housekeepers" promoted regulations to reduce air pollution. Public health experts directed efforts to improve sanitation.
Out of these reform movements, the Progressives formulated new concepts of environmental conservation and regional planning. Comparing the two cities, Platt highlights the ways in which political culture and institutions act to turn social geography into physical shapes on the ground. This focus on the political formation of urban space helps illuminate questions of social and environmental justice. Shock Cities will be of enormous value to students of ecology, technology, urban planning, and public health in the Western world.
Portico Library & Gallery: Portico Prize for Literature