Last week, Shannon and I began the packing (and garbage disposal) process for the upcoming move, and in an attempt to start small, we decided to attack the closets. In one of them, I uncovered a box of college textbooks and notebooks (I’m that kind of packrat), and among them were my spiral-bound notes from what may be my favorite class of all times, Kenneth Jackson’s History of the City of New York. It was a weird moment — I was busy packing up to move out of New York City, and in so doing, uncovered evidence of the class (and professor) who, more than anyone or anything else, helped me fall in love with New York City. Jackson taught the class as part-lecture, part-walking tour, and one-time all-night bike trip around the City, and to this day, the experiences he passed on have served to cement my psyche to the streets of New York. It’s unclear whether that is because I’m a natural-born New Yorker or whether Jackson just got to me at the point when I was most vulnerable (or, perhaps, whether I was just extremely likely to grasp onto any big city after ripping up my San Antonio childhood roots). After looking through the spiral, I found myself hoping that I have enough time once I get to Boston to invest myself in a similar exploration of the city’s history; I think it’s time to start compiling resources (both online and off) that exist to help weekend urban anthropologists like myself discover the Boston of times past.


Jason, you and me both! I *LOVED* that class (which I took as a CC senior in Fall ‘95). The all-night bike ride was the absolute standout, but the entire class was just fantastic. Jackson is a great lecturer, and out of all the great classes I took at Columbia, his was far and away the best. I looked forward to every session, went on more than the required number of field trips and walking tours, and read all of the assigned books cover to cover (even when he only assigned a chapter). NYC, my favorite city on earth — and Kenneth Jackson taught me why.

• Posted by: L. Markoff on Jun 9, 2003, 4:46 PM

I recently heard Jackson speak about NYC at the GEL conference. I can see why you enjoyed him and his class so much.

He’s an incredibly dynamic speaker and, most importantly, his love for the city and his love for the process of looking at where one lives comes through loud and clear. It’s inspiring to see someone live his life in that way.

• Posted by: Jeff on Jun 10, 2003, 8:34 AM

I’ll pass along your kind words to the folks at Fayerweather. I’m TA’ing the class next year, and apparently they’re adding weekly sections to the field trips, since the powers-that-be believe not enough information was being imparted in the old format. Good to hear it resonated with some folks out there.

• Posted by: Kevin on Jun 19, 2003, 1:08 AM

As one still mired in San Antonio, I share your love of the big cities and desire to experience something more than this place. One resource you might want to look for urban history information is the H-Urban list. Most posters are academics and writers who work in urban studies, and just a month or so back they ran an extended thread on walking tours and other ways to experience the city on a sensory level.

• Posted by: Patrick on Jun 19, 2003, 1:47 PM
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