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question to ponder

TURaj

Member
Messages
13
Points
1
We have seen that city building by those who settled North America placed more emphasis on building cities for commerce than building cities to reflect peoples religious beliefs, or governmental authority, or arts and culture In your view what did the US gain and lose by elevating commerce as the dominant value in early city building?

I THINK THE US GAINED EVERYTHING < LOST NOTHING , BUT I WILL FURTHER ELABORATE WHEN I GET SOME MORE THOUGHTS TOGETHER, IN THE MEANTIME LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
umm... I beg to differ... early towns and villages often focused around churches and villages squares.. or meeting halls...
 

simulcra

Member
Messages
127
Points
6
hmm... correct me if i'm wrong, but weren't the early cities commercial centers? places where farmers could trade their goods? i would think that came before religious gathering points.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Your from Philly and your posting such nonsense. Philly was built around Independence Hall, various churches, city hall, etc.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,444
Points
27
If I remember correctly, those that were the second tier of settlers (the natives being the first) came to escape religious persecution. This would lead me to believe most of the early cities were constructed around a church.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
As I sit in my office and can look up the hill at a Bassillica that dominates the landscape, i have to disagree with your opinion. I can also easily drive to any number of towns with populations less than 500 and see historic churches that will seat over 500 people. While the society in NA has typically claimed to be secular, the role that places of worship and other formal buildings have played in the development of the urban fabric reflects a different reality.

You should see the size and location of the "new" Mormon Temple in Brampton.

There has also recently been a story on the CBC about a community developed in Toronto around a Mosque and traditional Moslem values.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,917
Points
36
I think what TUraj was getting at is that many more North American cities were founded for commercial reasons than in the "old" world. It's a shame he didn't expand a bit on that and clarify before running off.

I'd still disagree - commercial reasons have been a driving force in the founding of cities around the world for centuries. The siting and layout of those towns tend to be where religious, cultural and military reasons come into play.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Ok, even so. A city is founded for commerce or because of its link in the commerce chain. I bet you that a church, synagogue, mosque, whatever was still an integral piece of the developing landscape of that town.

Religion is a very big thing in this country. Whatever it is you pray to.
 

martini

Cyburbian
Messages
678
Points
19
I dunno, seems to me that in the early years, most town were built for community gathering places(ie churches/religion), and commerce was a close second. As time has worn on though, commerce certainly has taken over as the predominate reason for the existence of cities. Just look at small old towns, what is the predominante feature? 9 times out of 10 its a chruch steeple. The other is a grain elevator.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
Cities were economic centers from day one. That's why cities formed (with very few exceptions). I'd suggest reading Jane Jacobs' Economy of Cities for a great discussion about that.

I think the issue is that, in many American cities (Chicago especially), economic pursuits were allowed to have the primary architectual focus of the city, wheras in Europe and elsewhere things were focused on community structures like churches, monuments and city halls.

Really I don't think it has much impact on the current workings of the cities, except that the communal focus of American cities tends not to be on the very center but rather offset slightly, like Market Street in San Francisco rather than the Financial District. It does reflect the priorities of the people founding American cities though, and perhaps belies the fact that our cities are still very young.

Just another quck thought. In earlier periods, public squares and buildings were where economic exchange took place, witness all of the buisness that went on on the steps of the local church in mediaeval europe. It could be just that by the time American cities were built, commerce had its own zone and it tended to be excluded from community spaces.
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,313
Points
44
I seem to recall reading in Mumford's book "The City in History" that many of the earliest cities, especially in the furtile crescent of the middle east, were formed for common defense and security reasons.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
City in History, while being a very good book, makes flawed arguments about the beginning of cities, imho. It still had the cart before the horse with respect to the forces that caused the creation of prehistoric cities. Agriculture was invented in Cities, it did not cause them. I was actually disappointed while reading it (right after reading Economy...) to see him make the same logical mistakes that Jacobs had pointed out and then neatly avoided in her book. The later bits of the book get a lot better though, as the historical record gets richer and he can base his assertions more on facts than on speculation. I especially the discussion of Rome.

I think Mumford's problem is that he wrote his book in 1961, Jacobs in 1970, and Jacobs used archeological evidence that wasn't yet available when Mumford wrote his. Plus he played up the whole feminine society vs. masculine society buisness way too much.
 

tsc

Cyburbian
Messages
1,905
Points
23
but the dominant architecture in almost every early american town.. is the church.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
The chicken or the egg problem is solved by the fact that all of the three major reasons for building a city occur at the same time with a little bit of unbalance in one of the three reasons.

1) you can't build a coherent city without a common culture or interest. Leading me to a belief that religion in early cities was a common form of glue holding the thing together.

2) If there is no trade, how could you support a religious cast or make a temporrary settlement into a permanant geographic node?

3) Security is based upon the fact that you have an understanding that others want what you have and are willing to take it by force.

It works this way:

1) As a common small group of people (tribe) acquire knowledge to survive, they acquire extra.

2) Having contact with others, stories are traded and the other tribe applies knowledge in new form.

3) Next time they interact, they have extras of what they need but different from the other.

4) Enough is acquired, meaning they do not move constantly, an "urban area" is born. They have shared goals & culture from the start, a system of trade is in place, and they now must maintain a paramilitary function as they are now a fixed TARGET for others with less.

It all happened at the same time. NOT a then b or c or any other order

In modern terms, the north americans could put less into the security function, and the religious function because of three factors.

a) Native Americans were no match for europeans in military terms. After european diseases wiped out 90% of thier numbers, the rest were superfluous for serious security threats.
aa) European armies of the day in NA were small expiditionary forces. California was taken from mexico with fewer tha 600 men.

b) The continent being so big, and the religious personel being few in number, could not control a clever but non-urban population. This means they followed people and tamed them slowly rather than having tight reign on the populace and politics as in europe

c) This allowed the greatest majority of effort to be placed into the economic function of urban areas.

Thanks for getting this far :)
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
In the United States we only separate church and state, not church and commerce. In Europe, particularly in past centuries, church, state, and commerce are really all rolled into one. This is no less true in small towns where the local monestary milled and essentially controlled the grain than it was in major pilgrimage sites like Le Puy en Velay, where the church gathered the riches of countless visitors. As others have suggested, it is too difficult to separate one single force as a reason for cities. Rather, it is their convergence that give rise to cities.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
There is no one answer here.

I will give southern examples here (since that is what I know):

Some cities where built around government buildings, i.e. courthouses in the square of county seats or state capitals.

Other cities were built around commerce, i.e. mill towns, farmers’ market towns and train stops.

So it just depends what city you are talking about.
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
TURaj said:
We have seen that city building by those who settled North America placed more emphasis on building cities for commerce than building cities to reflect peoples religious beliefs, or governmental authority, or arts and culture In your view what did the US gain and lose by elevating commerce as the dominant value in early city building?

Well, I think you sort of have to have 'commerce' and a certain level of material wealth in order to have a city, governmental authority, arts and culture, and religion as we understand it in the modern world. Cultures where everyone must eke out a subsistence existence from the land -- hunter-gatherer, for example, or subsistence farming -- aren't exactly known for their great cities of any type.

I think the trick is that the human race has never known the degree of material wealth that some humans have today and we have yet to develop a good paradigm for keeping our priorities straight. But it is emerging. I could elaborate at length, but I have ever so recently been 'banned' by Chet, who hates my long-winded posts, so we wouldn't want to provoke him, now would we. ;)

Besides, I have a cover letter to write and that would be a more productive use of my tendency to blather on. But I would be happy to discuss it further if you really are interested.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,623
Points
34
Way to jump into the fray newbie! Awesome discussion.

I think that we do have different patterns based on time and geography. St. Louis I think fits your example of an urbanization initially based on commerce. A rediculously high % of early rail traffic passed through there, and its decline can be directly tied to the rubber tire approach commerce turned to early this century.

I agree with some others as they opine of their location, that commerce di not found their urban area.

Mine (work) was founded solely on recreation in the post WW 1 era. You could say thats commerce of a sort, but we sure aint Celebration.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
Messages
4,853
Points
26
Valdivia was founded and built in it's actual place, by the spanish in a way to defend the area, exploit the gold reserves (now completely exhausted) and colonize the area and fight off the natives.

Valdivia was an quite an isolated city until the construction of the railroad (end of the 19th century), one example of the isolation is that after Chile's Independence in 1818 (not in 1810) Valdivia and Chiloé were still on the hands of the decaying spanish empire (until 1820-23)

Today Valdvia is becoming a touristic city, and in the past it was an industrial city, but due to the earthquake of 1960, a great amount of the industry died out.
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
Chet said:
Way to jump into the fray newbie! Awesome discussion.

I think that we do have different patterns based on time and geography. St. Louis I think fits your example of an urbanization initially based on commerce. A rediculously high % of early rail traffic passed through there, and its decline can be directly tied to the rubber tire approach commerce turned to early this century.
Responding directly to me only encourages me to talk more. You are making a huge mistake, you know? ;)

I would agree with your "time and geography" point. I took an economic geography class that was pretty interesting and then did all that GIS stuff last summer. Development very strongly follows transportation and transportation is very strongly influenced by geography.

Rivers, bays, mountain passes, etc are where an awful lot of cities have their origins and those are generally transportatin nodes and commercial centers. So I would tend to say that 'transportation hub' is really the basis for St. Louis, rather than 'commerce' per se, if your example is correct. (I would have to do a little research to really debate it as I am not that familiar with St. Louis.)

Alternately, like in Skeleton's example, natural resources that can be mined -- or the natural resource of excellent farm land -- heavily influences settlement and development. Geography is a BIG factor in city development, I think more than most people realize.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,623
Points
34
Michele Zone said:
Responding directly to me only encourages me to talk more. You are making a huge mistake, you know? ;)

I would agree with your "time and geography" point. I took an economic geography class that was pretty interesting and then did all that GIS stuff last summer. Development very strongly follows transportation and transportation is very strongly influenced by geography.
Yes, and Exactly. LOL

The best example of this I can think of again relates to early american railroads. Looking at old maps of the plains, towns sprang up at very regular intervals along railroad lines, corresponding with the coal and water pitstop needs of early locomotives. As grade changes to the west, these towns were closer together, as the locos could go less distance before replenighing their hoppers. Pehaps the first transit oriented developments! Later, as locos got bigger, stronger, longer haul, and eventually deisel, these towns died for lack of purpose, and [in addition to gold rush towns built on commerce!] the western ghost town was born.
 
Messages
7,649
Points
29
TURaj said:
In your view what did the US gain and lose by elevating commerce as the dominant value in early city building?
Now, back to the original (above) question:
I think we gained many 'higher' values, such as freedom of religion, political freedom, enlightened thinking, higher education, etc. The requirement to believe a certain way is very oppressive and tyrannical and can be extremely abusive to disempowered sub-groups.

America forever bemoans its poor education system -- and it has serious problems at the K-12 level. But our higher education -- "college" -- is essentially unmatched in the world and we are a major exporter of higher education.

The only people who think 'materialism' is 'immoral, evil, etc' are Americans wallowing in wealth who have never gone hungry. My mom is an immigrant who grew up starving in a war zone and she unabashedly revels in America's material wealth. There is an expression to the effect that you have to have money to be able to 'afford' middle-class morality.

I believe there is a lot of truth to that. I think that people who are living with extremes of privation are reduced to living like 'animals' and cannot 'afford' a morality in the same way that more well off people have (there are exceptions, this is a blanket statement, sorry). Having a full belly, a roof over your head, etc, makes it POSSIBLE to concern oneself with art, religion, morality, etc. It does not guarantee that one will focus on such things but when you have to work 12 or more hours a day at gruellingly hard physical labor, you generally have neither the time nor the energy to wonder about 'morality' and other such niceties.

Let's not forget that, historically, hunter-gatherer societies routinely murdered newborn infants (or inadvertently murdered pregnant women while trying to crudely induce a miscarriage) because they simply could not afford to feed them. I am sure no one was tried and convicted of murder in such situations. They literally could not afford to ponder our present day debate about 'when does life begin?' and 'when doess one become a human being?" and "is abortion murder?' etc.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,902
Points
57
TURaj said:
We have seen that city building by those who settled North America placed more emphasis on building cities for commerce than building cities to reflect peoples religious beliefs, or governmental authority, or arts and culture


We need to remember TURaj's actual question. He was not asking about the reasons of city building in civilization in general, but rather the impetus for city building in North America.

From my reading and study, the development and institution of cities, village, and towns in North America has been dominated by economic exploitation. How many cities in North America are located on good natural ports, or along navigable rivers; ie Chicago, Baltimore, NYC, Detroit, St. Louis, Seattle, LA, Boston, Alpena, MI, ad nausem.

The churches, Masonic temples, city squares, etc. come after the establishment of municipal government or plat of subdivision, or the digging of the mine, or dregging of the harbor or building of the local farmer's market. The above community institutions were developed in order to bring more people to a location in order to sell land, or expand the factory, or support the business district, in general.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Re: Re: question to ponder

mendelman said:
From my reading and study, the development and institution of cities, village, and towns in North America has been dominated by economic exploitation. How many cities in North America are located on good natural ports, or along navigable rivers; ie Chicago, Baltimore, NYC, Detroit, St. Louis, Seattle, LA, Boston, Alpena, MI, ad nausem.
And why not locate where there is economic activity, or the potential for it? Even cities founded for purely religious purposes needed to feed their people, therefore chosing a site with fresh water, good farmland, water power for milling, and a means to ship goods (and people).
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,902
Points
57
Re: Re: Re: question to ponder

Cardinal said:
And why not locate where there is economic activity, or the potential for it? Even cities founded for purely religious purposes needed to feed their people, therefore chosing a site with fresh water, good farmland, water power for milling, and a means to ship goods (and people).
Granted, but in North America, I can think of only Salt Lake City and Nauvoo, Il (Mormon founded munis.) that were estabilshed due to religious freedom. These were founded by a religious group that wanted to be free to worship as they saw fit, while still make a living outside of thier religion.

But the great majority of American places were developed in order to facilitate economic interaction, and practically all other elements, (police, muni. regs., etc) of urban living developed in order to facilitate and maintain the economic interaction and development.

But most North American cities are young, as has been mentioned, in comparison to other cities around the world. So, we have time to see them further stratify and mature.
 

TURaj

Member
Messages
13
Points
1
AWESOEM REPLYS

I can see that i am really gonna enjoy this board, i thank everyone for there inputs, and i must admit after readint them all i've begun to rethink this.

thanks again
 
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