The history of metropolitan expansion and suburbanization is often written from the perspective of the city. In Bulldozer Revolutions: A Rural History of the Metropolitan South
(University of Georgia Press, 2018), by contrast, Andrew C. Baker
focuses his gaze on the rural counties that underwent significant social, cultural, political, and environmental change as southern cities expanded after World War II. Baker sees the expansion of Houston, Texas, and Washington, D.C. into the “metropolitan fringe” as emblematic of processes at work throughout the South—and, in many ways, throughout the nation. Metropolitan growth transformed prevailing land uses in these counties: open-range forests gave way to fenced fields and subdivisions; market-oriented agriculture gave way to hobby farms; and rural residents considered proposals to develop waterways to accommodate the growing cities. Finally, Baker examines the degree to which the environmental deterioration caused by rapid, unplanned suburbanization helped fuel postwar environmentalism. He concludes that while residents outside of Houston and Washington, D.C. faced failed septic systems, flooding, and other challenges, their environmental concerns rarely translated into environmentalist action. Rather, they typically addressed these concerns in ways that reinforced the emerging social and political order.
Andrew Baker is Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M, Commerce.
Joshua Nygren is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Missouri. You can find him on Twitter @joshua_nygren. Thanks to Justin Dean and UCM’s Digital Media Production program for production assistance.