Since its settlement in 1630, Boston, its harbor, and outlying regions have witnessed a monumental transformation at the hands of humans and by nature. Remaking Boston chronicles many of the events that altered the physical landscape of Boston, while also offering multidisciplinary perspectives on the environmental history of one of America’s oldest and largest metropolitan areas.
Situated on an isthmus, and blessed with a natural deepwater harbor and ocean access, Boston became an important early trade hub with Europe and the world. As its population and economy grew, developers extended the city’s shoreline into the surrounding tidal mudflats to create more useable land. Further expansion of the city was achieved through the annexation of surrounding communities, and the burgeoning population and economy spread to outlying areas. The interconnection of city and suburb opened the floodgates to increased commerce, services and workforces, while also leaving a wake of roads, rails, bridges, buildings, deforestation, and pollution.
Profiling this ever-changing environment, the contributors tackle a variety of topics, including: the glacial formation of the region; physical characteristics and composition of the land and harbor; dredging, sea walling, flattening, and landfill operations in the reshaping of the Shawmut Peninsula; the longstanding controversy over the link between landfills and shoaling in shipping channels; population movements between the city and suburbs and their environmental implications; interdependence of the city and its suburbs; preservation and reclamation of the Charles River; suburban deforestation and later reforestation as byproducts of changing land use; the planned outlay of parks and parkways; and historic climate changes and the human and biological adaptations to them.
A most valuable contribution to urban environmental history. Particularly distinctive is its thoroughly multidisciplinary approach, in which scholarly concern for past perceptions of the environment is matched by deep knowledge of the processes that shaped it.
Helps the reader see and understand the many traces of earlier versions of [Boston] in today's landscape and activities, and it makes the reader muse about what preconceptions in our own day may influence future transformations of this city.
Provides a host of important insights drawn from the authors' broad expertise. Historians seeking examples of cross-fertilisation with other disciplines would do well to begin here.
Provides an outstanding model for considering the physical and human realities of urban space in America. How European (and later American) Bostonians changed the physical space around them reflects patterns of governance, enterprise, and social hierarchy that resulted in the unique landscape we inherited and continue to shape.
Stylistically, the essays are presented almost with one voice. They emphasize short, precise chapters that highlight fascinating nuggets of information, often shattering the reader's preconceived notions. . . both readable and enjoyable.
Anthony N. Penna is professor of history at Northeastern University. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Human Footprint: A Global Environmental History, and is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society.learn more
Conrad Edick Wright is director of research and Ford Editor of Publications at the Massachusetts Historical Society. He is the author or coeditor of several books, including Revolutionary Generation: Harvard Men and the Consequences of Independence and The Education of Henry Adams: A Centennial Version.learn more