Book Review in “The Journal of Urban Affairs”

[A] detailed and powerful new book…. Young is eager for public history to move beyond what he calls ‘building-ism,’ the disproportionate focus on the architectural features of historic places, and to focus instead on ‘beingness,’ a fuller appreciation for the communities and social engagement processes that make and remake history on a daily basis…. But ‘effective public history’ is fundamentally about people and their communities. How the history of a place is made, interpreted, and preserved or discarded depends on who occupies that place and whose voices get heard. As such, this book… [should] be of great interest to social scientists, urban planners, and activists interested in how urban communities develop, change, and record their memories.” 

Upcoming Book Talks/Signings

I hope to see you at these exciting upcoming events:

10/17 Read House & Gardens, 42 The Strand, New Castle, DE 6:30pm

10/19 Philadelphia City Institute Branch of the Free Library, 1905 Locust Street, 3:00pm

11/26 Rydal Park, Jenkintown, 7:30pm

12/12 1 Session Creutzburg Center 102, 260 Gulph Creek Road, In Harford Park Radnor, PA 19087, 1:30pm-3:00pm

1/1/20, 11:30am, Philadelphia Club

2/10/20, 11:00am, Colonial Dames, The First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE

The Battles of Germantown: Effective Public History

Known as America’s most historic neighborhood, the Germantown section of Philadelphia (est. 1683) has distinguished itself by using public history initiatives to forge community. Progressive programs about ethnic history, postwar urban planning, and civil rights have helped make historic preservation and public history meaningful. The Battles of Germantown considers what these efforts can tell us about public history’s practice and purpose in the United States. 

Author David Young, a neighborhood resident who worked at Germantown historic sites for decades, uses his practitioner’s perspective to give examples of what he calls, “effective public history.” The Battles of Germantown shows how the region celebrated “Negro Achievement Week” in 1928, or how social history research proved that the neighborhood’s Johnson House was a station on the Underground Railroad. These encounters have useful implications for addressing questions of race, history, and memory, as well as issues of urban planning and economic revitalization. Germantown’s historic sites use public history and provide leadership to motivate individuals in an area challenged by job loss, population change, and institutional inertia. The Battles of Germantown illustrates how understanding and engaging with the past can benefit communities today.

History / Philadelphia Region / Race and Ethnicity / Urban Studies


286 pages, 5 figures, 17 halftones, 2 maps, 6 x 9”

Paper ISBN 978-1-4399-1555-4 $29.95 £

Cloth ISBN 978-1-4399-1554-7 $109.50 £

Book Cover