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Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston Hardcover – August 23, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0674048416 ISBN-10: 0674048415 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674048415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674048416
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

With clear and insightful prose, Rawson effectively intersects ideas of nature and urban growth in a fine treatment of Boston. As he demonstrates so well, it is impossible to examine the history of urban places without understanding how they connect with the world in which they evolve and mature. The book will take a central place among other historical treatments of this magnificent city. (Martin V. Melosi, University of Houston)

By tracing the myriad shifting connections between Bostonians and the natural environments that have sustained their lives, Rawson's Eden on the Charles offers vital new perspectives on the human place in nature and how people think about it--not just for Boston, but for all American cities, past, present, and future. (William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West)

In lucid prose and engaging detail, Rawson charts how nineteenth-century Bostonians struggled with nature and one another to craft America's original city upon a hill. As he concludes, Boston not only shaped our nation's urban past but also charted its metropolitan future. Anyone who reads Eden on the Charles will see all American cities in a new, powerful light. (Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle)

A loving and thorough history of nineteenth-century Boston debates about suburban settlement and the major public works of the era. It is a fine exposition of what seems now to be holding us back from adapting to the needs of the twenty-first century. (Sam Bass Warner, Jr., author of The Urban Wilderness and Province of Reason)

In Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, Michael Rawson examines how the city's relationship with its natural surroundings informed its early growth and development. His compelling, well-researched narrative touches on several milestones on Boston's road to modernity, including the Common's conversion from a place of labor to a place of leisure, the emergence of pastoral suburbs as a respite from an increasingly urbanized landscape, and the long fight over a proposed municipal water system to bring fresh water to those who needed it most...Perhaps the book's most important lesson comes from a frustrated mariner who, upset over the maltreatment of the harbor, laments that "the past seems to be forgotten, the present only is regarded as of importance, and a veil is drawn over the future." Eden on the Charles is a valiant effort to combat such shortsightedness, reminding us that the key to building a successful community lies in respecting the natural resources that provide for it and in understanding our responsibility to our fellow citizens. (Michael Patrick Brady Boston Globe 2010-10-13)

Rawson examines the city of Boston in the 19th century and how its inhabitants constructed not only a city, but also a new way of looking at the connection between people and the natural world that defined what it means to be urban...The author focuses on how Bostonians transformed Boston Common into a public park, created one of the earliest U.S. urban water systems, and helped invent the idea of the pastoral suburb. This urban case study explores the changing nature of environmental relationships and the leading role that the city of Boston played in the process. As such, this readable work makes a valuable contribution to urban historiography. (T. A. Aiello Choice 2011-07-01)

About the Author

Michael Rawson is Associate Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Doug Carr on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For any person who has ever loved or lived in Boston, this is a great book to help understand how Boston developed in the 19th Century to the great American city that it is today. Many of us who grew up around Boston know some of the basics of its physical history: it's transformation from a tiny ithsmus surrounded by shallow flats to a much larger metropolis, made possible by cutting down many of its hills and filling in its harbors and bays to create land. But "Eden on the Charles - The Making of Boston" goes much deeper, exploring how this physical transformation was influenced by evolving ideas about nature, class, the environment, the nature of water, and the tension between the city vs. suburb vs. country. Boston was one of the first cities to deal with such dramatic transformations, and quite literally had to invent new ways of thinking about nature. After reading the great chapters on the evolution of the Boston Common and the decades-long battle to bring water to Boston, I now look at the Common and take a sip of my municipally-supplied water from an entirely new perspective. Mr. Rawson is a great historian and writer, synthesizing complicated ideas and events into a very powerful narrative. I intend to give gift copies of the book to several of my friends and architects in Boston.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DasHorn on December 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While a detailed analysis and summary of Boston's trials with public vs the private sector when building a utility, the account reads more like a dissertation than an historical event. The research that Mr. Rawson did in preparing this account of 19th Century Boston is remarkable. It is a must read for those who live in and love this great city. However, I feel as though he missed a more human side of these years when telling about the conflicts over parks and water rights.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Doug Cornelius on January 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever lived in Boston, Michael Rawson's Eden on the Charles is a great book to help understand how Boston developed in the 19th Century. You may know the basic transformation of Boston from a small ithsmus surrounded by shallow flats to the larger bustling city of today. For a book labeling a city as Eden, it's mostly about conflict. Conflict between the classes and conflict between different visions of the city. It uses those conflicts to highlight five developments in the city.

The first conflict is over the use of the Boston Common. In the early days of the city it was a common pasture. As the city grew, the common became a spot for recreation. That transformation increased as the affluent residents began calling Beacon Hill home. The conflict arose between those looking to keep agriculture in the city and those who wanted more recreation in the city (and didn't enjoy dodging cow patties).

The second conflict was over potable water. For centuries, residents were able to supply water through wells in the city. By the middle of the 19th century, wells became inadequate. The conflict was between those who thought water should be delivered by the government or by private parties. By this time in the city's history there were a few companies privately supplying water. Once the decision fell in favor of the government, the conflict was over how to pay for it. On one side was a movement to have it paid through general tax revenue. On the other was those who wanted it paid through a usage charge. Anyone who has paid a water bill knows how this was finally resolved.

The third conflict was over the suburbs. Boston offered water, streetlights, and police protection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Muckenhoupt on March 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rawson's overview of how Boston took shape is fascinating. I particularly enjoyed his section on the Middlesex Fells, and its origins in Yankee nostalgia for a vanished landscape at the time of the centennial. Highly recommended!
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Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
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