[Book Launch] Steam City: Railroads, Urban Space, & Corporate Capitalism in 19th-Century Baltimore – David Schley (HKBU)
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About the Event
Also available via Zoom: https:bit.ly/2Mi3CzK. Meeting ID: 950 2774 2996 (Password: 143904)
The origins of the American railroad lay not in private enterprise but in urban ambition. Eastern cities launched the first railroads in the United States to foster urban growth, and early railroads depended on municipal aid. How, then, did these urban, public improvements become paragons of capitalist power after the Civil War?
In this talk, based on his book, Steam City: Railroads, Urban Space, and Corporate Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore (University of Chicago Press, 2020), David Schley argues that we can find an answer to this question in the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, the birthplace of American railroading. As workers laid tracks in Baltimore’s streets and ran locomotives through the city center, railroad executives defined the city as a place of transit, positing that corporations stood outside of municipal officials’ regulatory purview. For the people of Baltimore, the railroad’s expanding influence over the urban environment raised questions about corporate accountability that remain vexing today. The bailouts, tax dodges, and offshoring that characterize capitalism int he twenty-first century have roots in the urban politics of the nineteenth century.
David Schley is an assistant professor of history at Hong Kong Baptist University. Steam City is his first book.
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