Violent Death in the City

Suicide, Accident, and Murder in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia. Second Edition.

Roger Lane
Foreword by Dave Johnson

History of Crime and Criminal Justice



201 pp. 6x9

$24.95 paper 978-0-8142-5021-1
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“A graceful and analytically rewarding blend of the historical and sociological disciplines.” —American Journal of Sociology

“The writing is clear, often witty, so that the book is enjoyable as well as useful.” —American Historical Review

Much of the material in this book is about death, but its real subject is life—the living behavior of thousands of largely anonymous Philadelphians between 1839 and 1901. The only remaining record of many of these people is the final entry: perhaps a story in the paper, more likely a brief notation by some agent of the state about the way in which they died. The manner of dying is, however, a reflection of the manner of living, and these largely unexplored records provide a great deal of information about the changing conditions of ordinary life. Roger Lane uses them to reexamine the links between growth and disorder or violence, two concerns that have dominated the traditional history and sociology of American cities in the nineteenth century.

Lane first establishes the usefulness of the indices of suicide, accident, and homicide as measures of personal behavior, especially violence. He then analyses the impact of population growth and other factors on that behavior.

Violent Death in the City was first published in 1979. Lane has written a new bibliographic essay for this edition, citing significant work published since 1979. David Johnson provides a foreword underscoring the importance of Lane's work.

Roger Lane, Benjamin R. Collins Professor of Social Studies at Haverford College, is the author of four other books, including Murder in America: A History (Ohio State University Press). David Johnson is a professor of history at the University of Texas, San Antonio.