With antecedents dating back to the Middle Ages, the community
garden is more popular than ever as a means of procuring the
freshest food possible and instilling community cohesion. But as
Micheline Nilsen shows, the small-garden movement, which gained
impetus in the nineteenth century as rural workers crowded into
industrial cities, was for a long time primarily a repository of
ideas concerning social reform, hygienic improvement, and class
mobility. Complementing efforts by worker cooperatives, unions, and
social legislation, the provision of small garden plots offered
some relief from bleak urban living conditions. Urban planners
often thought of such gardens as a way to insert "lungs" into a
Standing at the intersection of a number of
disciplines--including landscape studies, horticulture, and urban
history-- "The Working Man's Green Space" focuses on the
development of allotment gardens in European countries in the
nearly half-century between the Franco-Prussian War and World War
I, when the French Third Republic, the German Empire, and the late
Victorian era in England saw the development of unprecedented
measures to improve the lot of the "laboring classes." Nilsen shows
how community gardening is inscribed within a social contract that
differs from country to country, but how there is also an
underlying aesthetic and social significance to these gardens that
transcends national borders.
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