A smile seems the most natural of emotional expressions. We smile easily and often unthinkingly; babies smile; it is, as Colin Jones notes in his introduction to this book, ‘the most banal and unremarkable of social gestures’. Or is it?
This formidable and scholarly volume, a major contribution to urban, social and cultural history, is first and foremost a tribute to one of its co-authors, Charles McKean, the distinguished architectural historian, who sadly died when the book was being written.
History has demonstrated assimilation under colonial occupation to be a near impossible result to attain due primarily to its basic premise: the colonizers’ belief in their superiority over the colonized. Furthermore, the colonizers’ ambition to replace the colonized people’s ‘inferior’ culture with their ‘superior’ culture further complicated this process.
In 2009, when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ dominated the charts and the airwaves, the chorus phrase ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made up, there’s nothing you can’t do’ conjured images of New York’s iconic skyline as well as its promise, embodying the sentiment that no other American – if not world - city captures the imagination quite like New York.
In 1862, Henry Littlejohn was appointed to the newly created position of Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Edinburgh. Three years later, he published a Report on the Sanitary Condition of Scotland’s capital city, then home to more than 170,000 people.
Harlem and the photograph share a long, closely entangled history. Photographic images of the riots that erupted in the neighbourhood in 1935 and 1943 helped to puncture the image of Harlem as a playground for white urban adventurers, and to raise in its place the spectre of a ‘no-go’ area, a district of Manhattan sealed off from direct encounter by whites.
Cultural conflict, religious reform, social change and commercial growth all simultaneously proliferated in early modern England, a development that has inspired more than a century of heated scholarly debate.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.
The ‘great divide’ between the medieval and the early modern is nowhere more apparent than in ‘the history of the book’ – a field of study in which it has been particularly damaging to our understanding of the processes by which books and other texts were manufactured and distributed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Posted up on my fridge door is one of those certificates with which any parent of primary school aged children over the past decade or so would be familiar – accessorised with stars and stickers and smiley faces, the award acknowledges one of the kids for their ‘Awesome Effort for Remaining Open to Continuous Learning’.