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Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870-1930 Paperback – September 28, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0300124170 ISBN-10: 0300124171 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews


"'A welcome addition to American suburban history... A wonderfully accessible, interesting, timely, and important book.' Urban History 'Robert Fogelson, the author of several important volumes of urban history, has added again to our storehouse of knowledge... Fogelson's book will endure. Well into our new century, lawyers engaged in litigation contesting municipally enacted aesthetic strictures - commonplace in the suburbs to this very day - will cite the authority of Bourgeois Nightmares to buttress their clients' claims.' Michael H. Ebner, Journal of American History"

About the Author

Robert M. Fogelson is professor of urban studies and history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of several books about American urban history, most recently Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880–1950, published by Yale University Press.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (September 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300124171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300124170
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,827,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca L. Tushnet on August 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
History of restrictive covenants in suburbia, not very well organized but with various interesting details. There is a great story under here, though Fogelson doesn't do much more than scratch the surface: how did Americans, at least at the level of legal discourse, shift from thinking that "property rights" meant "no one can interfere with my property" from thinking that "any private agreements people make about land are enforceable, even if that means they can't repaint their houses without the consent of the Governing Committee"? There's something about the larger move from status to contract and the idea that the costs of variation in contracting can be disregarded in order to achieve more flexibility than property rights generally allow. Fogelson's best point is that the adopters of restrictive covenants didn't think that excluding the wrong kind of people (nonwhite, poor, and/or working-class) was sufficient: they also distrusted people with the racial and economic credentials to buy in initially, so they put other constraints on how property in these new planned communities could be used, both economic and aesthetic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Who, What, Where? VINE VOICE on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great introduction to the genesis of gated communities. If you do not know, that genesis lies in developer's need to earn a high rate of return for their investment. In the past, developers included many design features to attract those who would purchase the most profitable properties and homes from these developers. These features included aspects such as strict zoning within areas, design demands to protect scenic views, and requirements for landscaping. The book shows how many developers took the favored design ideas of time and made them applicable to profitable development. They bastardized many of these ideas, but by using marketing were able to obscure this fact. In the end, the author stresses the role of marketing in facilitating such development.

The author does not discuss many of the purported, and debated, consequences these developments have generated. That is not the purpose of the book. There are other books covering that treatment.

So the previous poster is off the mark. Way off the mark. They reference the America's continued purchase of these properties as an indication of their stupidity. This is unfounded. America desires the suburban properties because they maximize privacy which people value. They do not want to be forced to purchase many of the forms proposed by the design geniuses (Duany et al.) because these forms of design do not maximize the values desired by individuals. Yes, there are costs to this form of development.

But Americans have made the decision to pay these costs so they can enjoy privacy. These are the costs of freedom. If you do not wish to pay those costs, be honest and advocate for the abolition of freedom in what type of property we can purchase. But do not cast the lack of favor for "enlightened development" of property as stupid, because that is little more than intellectual snobbery and dishonesty. In short this book is worth buying.
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6 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Blueprint Brains on January 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
this book makes a point and drives it home over and over (and over) again. While it was a stunning revelation that restricted communities were actually the norm during the first half of the 20th century, rather than the exception, the author pounded it home without speaking about the repercussions of such covenants: Inner cities destroyed, ghettoization, crime, and life in the burbs turned out to be a dubious gift, at best. America is now plagued with obesity, depression, pollution, and all around stupidity, because of moving people so far apart from each other and the services they need to live.

This author could have well spent more time looking at the bigger picture, rather than beating us with one fact.
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