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World War II and the growth of southern city planning: a gigantic force?

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Many historians believe that war produces revolutionary or at least extraordinary change. That would seem to be true of some wars in a military sense and sometimes in a diplomatic sense. However, the picture of non-military change is not so clear for every society. Since World War II had such a great impact on American cities, the experience of cities seems like an ideal realm in which to test the degree of change. Since city planning is one of the premier modern urban professions, gauging the impact on city planning is a good place to begin. This article argues that southern city planning experienced only modest changes during the World War II. The war did create considerable growth in a few southern cities. However, the vast majority of them did not grow and usually declined. In the boom cities, the war created disorderly conditions, inimical to good city planning. On the other hand, the cities that declined made modest progress in planning, mainly in establishing amateur planning commissions and adopting zoning laws. These relatively tranquil cities laid the foundations for planning development, while the boom cities just tried to keep their heads above water. The dramatic changes that war caused to other aspects of historical experience did not touch southern city planning.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195, USA ( &rpar, Email:

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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