History of the City of New York

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HIST W3535 History of the City of New York, taught by Kenneth Jackson, is one of the most famous classes at Columbia.[1] It is particularly well-known for its all-night bike tour of the city, led by Professor Jackson.


  • Lectures
  • Readings - Empire City, edited by Prof Jackson, plus a few other urban history/theory books (such as Death and Life of Great American Cities).
  • Total of 8 discussion sections throughout semester, with 300-500 word responses due for each section
  • Either 1) 15-20 page walking tour of an assigned neighborhood, written in groups of three, or 2) an internship with a local organization.
  • Seven walking tours of the city. Extra credit no longer granted for doing more than 7.
  • Midterm (20%) and final (40%)
  • Optional all-night bicycle tour of the city


  1. Course introduction
  2. History as destiny: the case of NYC
  3. Dutch outpost; English prize
  4. Revolutionary battlefield
  5. The rise to North American dominance
  6. Making the city livable: fire and water
  7. Epidemics and sanitation
  8. City people: new ways of living in the metropolis
  9. Police, prostitution, and public order
  10. City boss and ward boss: the legacy of Tammany Hall
  11. Making the city livable: cemeteries, parks, and open space
  12. New York City and the transportation revolution
  13. The draft riots: immigration and race in New York
  14. The Brooklyn Bridge and the consolidation of greater New York
  15. Tenements and tenement house reform
  16. The making of a world city: 1880-1930
  17. Black New York
  18. Skyscraper city
  19. Popular culture
  20. Capital of the world: high culture and performing arts
  21. NYC in depression and decline: 1930-1977
  22. The world that Robert Moses made
  23. Conflict and compromise: the city as refuge and haven for dissent
  24. If Jane Jacobs returned to New York
  25. The return of a giant: NYC Reemergent