Central-city infrastructure development in the 19th and 20th centuries, in areas such as sewerage, water supply, street lighting, and street paving, was an important cause of suburban municipal autonomy by the time of the Great Depression. Suburban autonomy was in turn an important factor in the racial and economic transformations that were visible in central cities by the 1950s, in the overall decline in central-city populations on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and thus in the radically changed position of cities in American politics after World War II. This talk traces the path from urban technological development and diffusion, to the changing legal jurisdictional structure of metropolitan regions, to the changing role of urbanization in national politics and policy making.
Richardson Dilworth is an associate professor of political science and the director of the Center for Public Policy at Drexel University. He is the author of The Urban Origins of Suburban Autonomy (2005) and the editor of two books: The City in American Political Development (2009) and Social Capital in the City: Community and Civic Life in Philadelphia (2006). In 2008 he was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to serve on the Philadelphia Historical Commission, where he is chair of the Historic Designation Committee.