The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 429
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ern urbanization in the twentieth century. Just as their primary focus differs,
the authors have dissimilar goals. Larsen offers his readers a general, brief sur-
vey of his topic based largely on the secondary literature. The contributors to
the Essays on Sunbelt Citzes base their work on original research.
Larsen manages to include an astonishing amount of information about an
increasingly familiar subject in a relatively short book. And he works very hard
to place southern urbanization in a regional and national perspective. Using a
fairly standard periodization of southern history, he relates urbanization to the
South's more general development, and he frequently refers to northern ur-
banization for comparative purposes. In general, he implicitly argues that
southern urbanization was subordinate to the demands of southern agriculture
and to the dictates of New York City.
Larsen's argument is usually implicit because he pointedly eschews "a con-
trolling theory or unique 'public culture' synthesis. . ." (p. xii). This, in my view,
is unfortunate, especially because Larsen's approach deprives him of an explic-
itly unifying theme for his work. It also denies him an opportunity to grapple
systematically with David Goldfield's (Cottonfields and Skyscrapers) provocative
and important assertions about the uniqueness of southern cities. Larsen seems
disinclined toward Goldfield's views, arguing instead for the idea that northern
domination of the southern economy retarded regional urbanization. He also
advances the opinion that southern urbanization was more orderly than in the
North, and by implication, more appropriate to regional needs. Those ideas
leave him in a difficult position for explaining the pell-mell success of the Sun-
belt, a problem he resolves primarily by ignoring it.
The essays in the second volume under review make no attempt to adhere to
a single interpretative theme or subject. With the exception of Raymond Mohl's
broad overview essay on recent American urbanization, the authors deal with a
range of specific topics. Robert Fisher, arguing cogently that Sunbelt distinc-
tiveness derives from its devotion to a particular version of political economy,
uses Houston to illustrate his thesis. Carl Abbott, in one of the most insightful
explanations of contemporary reactions to the urban morphology of the South-
west, examines visual imagery as a means of understanding differences be-
tween, and our reactions to, the form of southwestern and eastern cities. Roger
Lotchin focuses on San Diego to provide an insightful and convincing analysis
of the origins and development of the military-urban complex. Robert Fair-
banks perceptively analyzes the reasons for the dominance of the Dallas Citi-
zens' Charter Association in local politics between 1930 and i960. And finally,
Zane Miller offers a cerebral, challenging analysis of the intellectual history of
regionalism, community, and individualism through a comparison of the ideas
of Walter Prescott Webb and the Chicago School of Sociology.
The uniformly high quality of these essays make this an important collection.
Historians of the Southwest and of the Sunbelt will find a great deal of useful
information and provocative analysis in these contributions, which make a
worthy addition to the prestigious Webb Lectures series.
University of Texas at San Antonzo
DAVID R. JOHNSON
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/489/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.