Thank you for coming here.  I have asked you to view this page because you have an interest in urban history, whether specific or general.  I set up this page on my site to explain what I am trying to do with my blog, and to ask your help.

I write two blogs, “The More Things Change…” and “…The More They Stay The Same.”  The latter is a conventional blog, with random observations on the interaction between the urban grid and the automobile, past, present and future.  I would, of course, appreciate your reading it, but I have asked you to come to this page to help me with my other blog.

The More Things Change…” is very different.  I seek your comments about this blog, what I am trying to do, and how I might do it better.

I began posting last year, and have slowly evolved both the blog’s purpose and my approach to it.

The blog attempts to put urban history in the service of urban activism.  It has two goals:

  1. To educate residents of smaller urban communities—primarily, but by no means exclusively in the “rust belt”—as to how things came to be as they are in our urban areas.
  2. To promote and publicize the work of urban community activists, and to encourage communication among them.

I look upon my blog as an online effort to teach “Urban History Since World War II” and provide a manual for urban activists. These two are closely linked, and promoting urban activism ranks higher than recounting urban history.  The latter is focused on lessons useful to the former, because those who continue to believe in myths will continue to make mistakes.

Here are its basic components, first, the structure, and then the approach: 

  • Wider applicability aside, the blog is geographically specific in its market and therefore its subjects.  The focus is on the former mill towns of the lower Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, who, as a group fell on hard times after the Second World War.
  • I publish a post every Friday.  The core of this work is a series of posts that review the broader U.S. urban experience since the war, and attack the many myths that envelop this controversial subject.  Central to this approach are the posts of February 28th, and March 14, the Fifth and Sixth of the Series. 
  • I alternate these posts with discussions of specific subjects relevant to the lower Schuylkill Valley, offering lessons of local history relevant to the future.  These are generally stand-alone posts, but introduce themes that I will continue to address in the future.
  • My blog takes what I term a “community college approach.”  I view my local audience as an extension of the people I have encountered while teaching history at two such institutions.  They were not, and are not, positioned to be receptive to a balanced, academic rendering of local history.  They sat in my class, and are reading my blog, for the specific goal of improving their situation, not for the abstract pleasure of learning.  Their concept of “what can I get from this class?” was both uniquely individual and very focused, as is the motivation of my readers today.  This accounts for both my blog's style and its frequently non-academic prose.
  • Equally significant is the fact that my students tended to be, and my readers are, mature adults, in the middle of lives already well underway.  This is a cause of the focus I just referred to, but it also means they already “know what they know.”  Unfortunately, much of what they “know” is wrong, and much of that is due to their previous and continuing exposure to popular myths about recent U.S. history.  I have, therefore, set myself a two-sided task: to attack the myths, and replace them with concepts which, however simplistic, are much closer to the truth.

I ask you to read "The More Things Change..." and to offer your comments on both its structure and approach.  Of course, if you disagree with anything I say, please feel free to add that also!

Thank you,

Michael E. Tolle

Read: The More Things Change…

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