Civics: as Applied Sociology by Patrick Geddes

Produced by Jon Ingram, Wilelmina Malliere and Distributed Proofreaders Europe, _Civics: as Applied Sociology_ by Patrick Geddes Read before the Sociological Society at a Meeting in the School of Economics and Political Science (University of London), Clare Market, W.C., at 5 p.m., on Monday, July 18th, 1904; the Rt. Hon. CHARLES BOOTH, F.R.S., in
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Produced by Jon Ingram, Wilelmina Malliere and Distributed Proofreaders Europe,

_Civics: as Applied Sociology_

by Patrick Geddes

Read before the Sociological Society at a Meeting in the School of Economics and Political Science (University of London), Clare Market, W.C., at 5 p.m., on Monday, July 18th, 1904; the Rt. Hon. CHARLES BOOTH, F.R.S., in the Chair.


This department of sociological studies should evidently be, as far as possible, concrete in treatment. If it is to appeal to practical men and civic workers, it is important that the methods advocated for the systematic study of cities, and as underlying fruitful action, be not merely the product of the study, but rather be those which may be acquired in course of local observation and practical effort. My problem is thus to outline such general ideas as may naturally crystallise from the experience of any moderately-travelled observer of varied interests; so that his observation of city after city, now panoramic and impressionist, again detailed, should gradually develop towards an orderly Regional Survey. This point of view has next to be correlated with the corresponding practical experience, that which may be acquired through some varied experiences of citizenship, and thence rise toward a larger and more orderly conception of civic action–as Regional Service. In a word, then, Applied Sociology in general, or [Page: 104] Civics, as one of its main departments, may be defined as the application of Social Survey to Social Service.

In this complex field of study as in simpler preliminary ones, our everyday experiences and commonsense interpretations gradually become more systematic, that is, begin to assume a scientific character; while our activities, in becoming more orderly and comprehensive, similarly approximate towards art. Thus there is emerging more and more clearly for sociological studies in general, for their concrete fields of application in city after city, the conception of a scientific centre of observation and record on the one hand, and of a corresponding centre of experimental endeavour on the other–in short of Sociological Observatory and Sociological Laboratory, and of these as increasingly co-ordinated. Indeed, is not such association of observations and experiments, are not such institutions actually incipient here and elsewhere? I need not multiply instances of the correlation of science and art, as of chemistry with agriculture, or biology with medicine. Yet, on the strictly sociological plane and in civic application they are as yet less generally evident, though such obvious connections as that of vital statistics with hygienic administration, that of commercial statistics with politics, are becoming recognised by all. In the paper with which this Society’s work lately opened, the intimate connection between a scientific demography and a practical eugenics has been clearly set forth. But this study of the community in the aggregate finds its natural parallel and complement in the study of the community as an integrate, with material and immaterial structures and functions, which we call the City. Correspondingly, the improvement of the individuals of the community, which is the aim of eugenics, involves a corresponding civic progress. Using (for the moment at least) a parallel nomenclature, we see that the sociologist is concerned not only with “demography” but with “politography,” and that “eugenics” is inseparable from “politogenics.” For the struggle for existence, though observed mainly from the side of its individuals by the demographer, is not only an intra-civic but an inter-civic process; and if so, ameliorative selection, now clearly sought for the individuals in detail as eugenics, is inseparable from a corresponding civic art–a literal “Eupolitogenics.”


Coming to concrete Civic Survey, where shall we begin? Not only in variety and magnitude of civic activities, but, thanks especially to the work of Mr. Charles Booth and his collaborators in actual social survey also, London may naturally claim pre-eminence. Yet even at best, does not this vastest of world cities remain a less or more foggy labyrinth, from which surrounding [Page: 105] regions with their smaller cities can be but dimly descried, even with the best intentions of avoiding the cheap generalisation of “the provinces”? For our more general and comparative study, then, simpler beginnings are preferable. More suitable, therefore, to our fundamental thesis–that no less definite than the study of races and usages or languages, is that of the groupings of men–is the clearer outlook, the more panoramic view of a definite geographic region, such, for instance, as lies beneath us upon a mountain holiday. Beneath vast hunting desolations lie the pastoral hillsides, below these again scattered arable crofts and sparsely dotted hamlets lead us to the small upland village of the main glen: from this again one descends to the large and prosperous village of the foothills and its railway terminus, where lowland and highland meet. East or west, each mountain valley has its analogous terminal and initial village, upon its fertile fan-shaped slope, and with its corresponding minor market; while, central to the broad agricultural strath with its slow meandering river, stands the prosperous market town, the road and railway junction upon which all the various glen-villages converge. A day’s march further down, and at the convergence of several such valleys, stands the larger county-town–in the region before me as I write, one of added importance, since not only well nigh central to Scotland, but as the tidal limit of a till lately navigable river. Finally, at the mouth of its estuary, rises the smoke of a great manufacturing city, a central world-market in its way. Such a river system is, as geographer after geographer has pointed out, the essential unit for the student of cities and civilisations. Hence this simple geographical method of treatment must here be pled for as fundamental to any really orderly and comparative treatment of our subject. By descending from source to sea we follow the development of civilisation from its simple origins to its complex resultants; nor can any element of this be omitted. Were we to begin with the peasant hamlet as our initial unit, and forget the hinterlands of pasture, forest, and chase (an error to which the writer on cities is naturally prone), the anthropologist would soon remind us that in forgetting the hunter, we had omitted the essential germ of active militarism, and hence very largely of aristocratic rule. Similarly, [Page: 106] in ignoring the pastoral life, we should be losing sight of a main fount of spiritual power, and this not only as regards the historic religions, but all later culture elements also, from the poetic to the educational. In short, then, it takes the whole region to make the city. As the river carries down contributions from its whole course, so each complex community, as we descend, is modified by its predecessors. The converse is no doubt true also, but commonly in less degree.

In this way with the geographer we may rapidly review and extend our knowledge of the grouping of cities. Such a survey of a series of our own river-basins, say from Dee to Thames, and of a few leading Continental ones, say the Rhine and Meuse, the Seine and Loire, the Rhone, the Po, the Danube–and, if possible, in America also, at least the Hudson and Mississippi–will be found the soundest of introductions to the study of cities. The comparison of corresponding types at once yields the conviction of broad general unity of development, structure, and function. Thus, with Metschnikoff we recognise the succession of potamic, thalassic, and oceanic civilisations; with Reclus we see the regular distribution of minor and major towns to have been largely influenced not only by geographical position but by convenient journey distances. Again, we note how the exigencies of defence and of government, the developments of religion, despite all historic diversities, have been fundamentally the same. It is not, of course, to be forgotten how government, commerce, communications, have concentrated, altered or at least disguised the fundamental geographical simplicity of this descending hierarchy from mountain-hamlet to ocean-metropolis; but it is useful for the student constantly to recover the elemental and naturalist-like point of view even in the greatest cities. At times we all see London as still fundamentally an agglomeration of villages, with their surviving patches of common, around a mediaeval seaport; or we discern even in the utmost magnificence of Paris, say its Place de l’Etoile, with its spread of boulevards, but the hunter’s tryst by the fallen tree, with its radiating forest-rides, each literally arrow-straight. So the narrow rectangular network of an American city is explicable only by the unthinking persistence of the peasant thrift, which grudges good land to [Page: 107] road-way, and is jealous of oblique short cuts. In short, then, in what seems our most studied city planning, we are still building from our inherited instincts like the bees. Our Civics is thus still far from an Applied Sociology.


But a city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time. Though the claim of geography be fundamental our interest in the history of the city is supremely greater; it is obviously no mere geographic circumstances which developed one hill-fort in Judea, and another in Attica, into world centres, to this day more deeply influential and significant than are the vastest modern capitals. This very wealth of historical interests and resources, the corresponding multiplicity of specialisms, more than ever proves the need of some means by which to group and classify them. Some panoramic simplification of our ideas of history comparable to that of our geography, and if possible congruent with this, is plainly what we want. Again the answer comes through geography, though no longer in mere map or relief, but now in vertical section–in the order of strata ascending from past to present, whether we study rock-formations with the geologist, excavate more recent accumulations with the archaeologist, or interpret ruins or monuments with the historian. Though the primitive conditions we have above noted with the physiographer remain apparent, indeed usually permanent, cities have none the less their characteristic phases of historic development decipherably superposed. Thus below even the characteristically patriarchal civilisations, an earlier matriarchal order is often becoming disclosed. Our interest in exploring some stately modern or Renaissance city is constantly varied by finding some picturesque mediaeval remnant; below this some fragment of Roman ruin; below this it may be some barbarian fort or mound. Hence the fascinating interest of travel, which compels us ever to begin our survey anew. Starting with the same river-basin as before, the geographic panorama now gains a new and deeper interest. Primitive centres long forgotten start into life; pre-historic tumuli give up their dead; to the stone circles the [Page: 108] worshippers return; the British and the Roman camps again fill with armed men, and beside the prosaic market town arises a shadowy Arthurian capital. Next, some moment-centuries later, a usurper’s tower rises and falls; the mediaeval abbey, the great castles, have their day; with the Reformation and the Renaissance the towns again are transformed; and yet more thoroughly than ever by the Industrial Revolution, with its factories, railways, steamships, and all that they bring with them. Thus, for instance, almost more important than the internal transformation and concentration wrought by railway and telegraph, is the selection, amidst the almost innumerable seaports of the older order, of the very few adapted to the deep draught of modern ships. In a word, not only does the main series of active cities display traces of all the past phases of evolution, but beside this lie fossils, or linger survivals, of almost every preceding phase.

Hence, after many years of experiment and practice in teaching sociology I still find no better method available than that of regional survey, historical as well as geographical. Beginning with some popular excursion of obvious beauty and romantic interest like that to Melrose, we see with every tourist how naturally and fully the atmosphere and tradition of the Border found its expression and world influence in Sir Walter Scott. Thence, passing by way of contrast through the long isolated peninsula of Fife, say to representative towns like Kirkcaldy and Largo, we still see the conditions of that individualism of which Adam Smith and Alexander Selkirk (“Robinson Crusoe”) have each in his way become the very prototypes. In such ways the connection of regional geography, history, and social psychology becomes increasingly clear. Again, we explore the other old Fife seaports, a series of survivals like those of the Zuyder Zee, or again work out in the field the significance of Stirling, so often the strategic centre of Scotland. Again, Dunfermline, as early mediaeval capital and abbey, furnishes a convenient object lesson preparatory to the study of the larger Edinburgh. Here, again, its triple centre, in the port of Leith, the Royal Castle, the Abbey of Holyrood, are the respective analogues of the port of London, the Tower, and Westminster; while each city-group has its outlying circle of minor burghs, tardily and imperfectly incorporated into a civic whole. Again, such a marked contrast of civic origins and developments as those of Glasgow and Edinburgh has to be accounted for; and thus through such progessively complexer surveys we reach the plane of modern civic problems and policies. Understanding the present as the development of the past, are we not preparing also to understand the future as the development of the present?

The impressiveness of the aspect of Edinburgh to its visitors is thus not [Page: 109] merely pictorial. Be the spectator conscious of this or no, it turns primarily upon the contrast of the mediaeval hill-city with its castle ramparts, its fretted cathedral crown, with park and boulevard, with shops, hotels and railway stations. But the historic panorama is unusually complete. See the hill-fort defended by lake and forest, becoming “_castrum puellarum_,” becoming a Roman and an Arthurian citadel, a mediaeval stronghold of innumerable sieges, a centre of autocratic and military dictatures, oligarchic governments, at length a museum of the past. So in the city itself. Here the narrow ridge crowded into a single street all the essential organs of a capital, and still presents with the rarest completeness of concentration a conspectus of modern civic life and development; and this alike as regards both spiritual and temporal powers, using these terms in their broadest senses as the respective expressions of the material order and its immaterial counterparts. Thus the royal and noble castles of the Middle Age become with the Renaissance here as everywhere something of palaces, while with the industrial revolution they have become replaced by factories or transformed into breweries. So the guidance of speculative thought, once concentrated in the mediaeval abbey, becomes transferred to the Reformation assembly of divines, to the Renaissance college; and again at the Revolution, is largely taken over by the speculative encyclopaedists, of whom Hume and Smith were but the most eminent. Nor are later developments less obvious. Of the following generation, we have the neo-classic architecture which everywhere dominated Europe after the French Revolution and during the First Empire, while of the next generation’s reaction against all this in the romantic movement, the neo-Gothic monument of Scott is the most characteristic possible representative. Again, just as in the Oxford movement we had the (appropriately regional) renascence of the idealism of the Cavaliers, so in Edinburgh we have naturally the simultaneous renascence of the Puritan ideal, e.g., in the Free Church, whose monument accordingly rises to dominate the city in its turn. The later period of prosperous Liberalism, the heroic enthusiasms of Empire, have each left their mark; and now in the dominant phase of social evolution, that of Finance, the banks, the financial companies, the press are having their turn as monument builders. Our Old Edinburgh is thus the most condensed example, the visible microcosm of the social evolution which is manifest everywhere; so that as a teaching model of sociological development it may renew its educational attractiveness when its improving hygiene has lessened its medical advantages.

Setting down now these phases of historical development in tabular form, we have a diagram such as the following:–

ANCIENT | RECENT | CONTEMPORARY | INCIPIENT ———————————————————————————————————- Primitive | Matri- | Patri- | Greek | Mediaeval | Renaissance | Revolution | Empire | Finance | ? ? ? | archal | archal | and | | | | | | | | | Roman | | | | | |

which, were it placed erect, we might now compare to the increasing [Page: 110] nodes of a growing stem, or rather say the layers of a coral reef, in which each generation constructs its characteristic stony skeleton as a contribution to the growing yet dying and wearying whole. I have elaborated this example of the panoramic aspect of Old Edinburgh as a widely familiar instance of the method of literal survey with which social and civic studies may so conveniently begin; and I press the value of extending these even to the utmost elaborateness of photographic survey: in my view, indeed, a sociological society has at least as much use for a collection of maps, plans and photographs as of statistics, indeed scarcely less than one of books. Of course, in all this I am but recalling what every tourist in some measure knows; yet his impressions and recollections can become an orderly politography, only as he sees each city in terms of its characteristic social formations, and as he utilises the best examples from each phase towards building up a complete picture of the greatest products of civic evolution, temporal and spiritual, of all places and times up to the present. Such a parallel of the historic survey of the city to that of its underlying geological area is thus in no wise a metaphoric one, but one which may be worked out upon maps sections and diagrams almost completely in the same way–in fact, with little change save that of colours and vertical scale. The attempt to express the characteristic and essential life and thought of a given region in each period upon a series of maps is in fact the best method of understanding the everyday map at which we commonly look so unthinkingly.

Much of the preceding, I am assured, must be most unsatisfactory to those who look at cities only from the standpoint of so many committees dealing with police, water, finance, and so on; or to those who are content to view the magnitude, the wealth and the population, the industries and the manufactures of a great city without considering whence these have come and whither they are leading; equally unsatisfactory also, I fear, to those to whom civic dignities and precedence, or the alternations of winning political colours, appear of prime importance. I can only hope that some of these may, on consideration, admit that the points of view I have endeavoured to outline above may be worth some thought and study as elementary preliminaries to their own more special and developed interests; and if the society permit. I hope to approach these more closely in a later paper.

[Page: 111] The abstract economist or legalist, the moral or political philosopher may also resent the proposed mode of treatment as an attempt to materialise sociology by reducing it to concrete terms alone. But I would reply that observation, so far from excluding interpretation, is just the very means of preparing for it. It is the observant naturalist, the travelled zoologist and botanist, who later becomes the productive writer on evolution. It is the historian who may best venture on into the philosophy of history;–to think the reverse is to remain in the pre-scientific order altogether: hence the construction of systems of abstract and deductive economics, politics or morals, has really been the last surviving effort of scholasticism. Viewed as Science, Civics is that branch of Sociology which deals with Cities–their origin and distribution; their development and structure; their functioning, internal and external, material and psychological; their evolution, individual and associated. Viewed again from the practical side, that of applied science, Civics must develop through experimental endeavour into the more and more effective Art of enhancing the life of the city and of advancing its evolution. With the first of these lines of study, the concretely scientific, our philosophical outlook will not fail to widen; with the second, the practical, our ethical insight will not fail to deepen also.

As primarily a student of living nature in evolution, I have naturally approached the city from the side of its geographic and historic survey, its environment and functional change; yet it is but a step from these to the abstract interpretations of the economist or the politician, even of philosopher and moralist. Again, since in everyday practice co-ordinating the literal maps of each civic surveys with even more concretely detailed plans as gardener and builder, I find less danger than may at first appear of ignoring the legitimate demands of the needed practical division of labour in the city’s service. When the first mutual unfamiliarity is got over, there is thus also a greatly diminished distance between speculative thinkers and practical men, who at present, in this country especially, stand almost unrelated: the evolutionist student and worker thus begins to furnish the missing link between them.


Leaving now the external survey of the city by help of its material framework, its characteristic buildings and predominant styles, for the deeper psychological survey of the citizens themselves, we may conveniently begin with these also in their process of development–in fact, our method compels us to this course. We enter then a school; and if we bring fresh eyes we may soon be agreed that the extraordinary babel of studies its time-table and curriculum reveal, is intelligible from no single one of the various [Page: 112] geographic or historic points of view we have traversed from mountain to sea, or from past to present. But this unprecedented conflict of studies becomes at once intelligible when viewed apart from any and every definite theory of education yet promulgated by educationists, and even acquires a fresh theory of its own–that of the attempted recapitulation of the survivals of each and all preceding periods in their practical or speculative aspects, particularly the later legends and literatures, their rituals and codes. Thus, the inordinate specialisation upon arithmetic, the exaggeration of all three R’s, is plainly the survival of the demand for cheap yet efficient clerks, characteristic of the recent and contemporary financial period.

The ritual of examinations with its correlation of memorising and muscular drill is similarly a development of the imperial order, historically borrowed from the Napoleonic one; the chaotic “general knowledge” is similarly a survival of the encyclopaedic period; that is, of the French Revolution and the Liberal Movement generally; the Latin grammar and verses are of course the survivals of the Renaissance, as the precise fidelity to absurd spelling is the imitation of its proof readers; the essay is the abridged form of the mediaeval disputation; and only such genuine sympathy with Virgil or Tacitus, with Homer or Plato as one in a thousand acquires, is truly Roman or Greek at all. The religious instruction, however, re-interpreted by the mediaeval Church or the Reformation, has still its strength in some of the best elements of patriarchal literature; while the fairy tale, by which all this superincumbent weight of learning is sometimes alleviated, is the child’s inheritance from the matriarchal order. Finally, the apple and the ball, at the bottom of this whole burden of books, complete the recapitulation; as the one, the raw fruit; the other, the ready missile, of primeval man. Our child then is heir of all the ages more fully than he or his teachers commonly realise. The struggle for mastery of the schools is thus no temporary feud, but an unending battle; one destined to increase rather than diminish; for in this there is the perpetual clash of all the forces of good heredity and evil atavism, of all the new variations also, healthy or diseases.


The city and its children thus historically present a thoroughly parallel accumulation of survivals or recapitulations of the past in the present. Few types nowadays are pure, that is, keep strictly to their period; we are all more or less mixed and modernised. Still, whether by temporal or spiritual compulsion, whether for the sake of bread or honour, each mainly and practically stands by his order, and acts with the social formation he belongs to. Thus now the question of the practical civics, that is, of the applied sociology, of each individual, each body or interests may be broadly defined; it is to emphasise his particular historic type, his social formation and influence in the civic whole, if not indeed to dominate this as far as may be. We are all for progress, but we each define it in his own way. Hence one man of industrial energy builds more factories or slums, another as naturally more breweries to supply them; and in municipal or national council his line of action, conscious or unconscious, remains congruent with these. Representative government fails to yield all that its inventors hoped of it, simply because it is so tolerably representative of its majorities; and there is thus great truth in the common consolation that our municipal governments, like larger ones, are seldom much worse than we deserve. Each social formation, through each of its material activities, exerts its influence upon the civic whole; and each of its ideas and ideals wins also its place and power. At one time the legal and punitive point of view, directing itself mainly to individual cases, or the philanthropic, palliating sufferings, dispute the foremost places; and now in their turn hygienic or educational endeavours arise, towards treating causes instead of waiting for consequences. Such endeavours are still undeniably too vague in thought, too crude in practice, and the enthusiast of hygiene or education or temperance may have much to answer for. But so, also, has he who stands outside of the actual civic field, whether as philistine or aesthete, utopist or cynic, party politician or “mug-wump.” Between all these extremes it is for the united forces of civic survey and civic service to find the middle course. [Page: 114] We observe then in the actual city, as among its future citizens, that our action is generally the attempt to mould both alike to some past or passing social formation, and, therefore, usually towards the type to which our interest and our survey incline, be this in our own city or more probably in some earlier one. Even in the actual passing detail of party politics we are often reminded how directly continuous are the rivals with puritan London, with royalist Oxford; but still more is this the case throughout the history of thought and action, and the intenser the more plainly; for it is in his highest moments of conviction and decision that the Puritan feels most in sympathy with the law or the prophets of Jerusalem, the scholar with Athens; or that the man of action–be he the first French republican or the latest imperialist–most frankly draws his inspiration from the corresponding developments of Paris. It is a commonplace of psychology that our thought is and must be anthropomorphic; a commonplace of history that it has been Hebraomorphic, Hellenomorphic, Latinomorphic, and so on by turns.

This view has often been well worked out by the historian of inventions and discoveries, of customs or laws, of policies or religions, as by the historian of language or the fine arts. What we still commonly need, however, is to carry this view clearly into our own city and its institutions, its streets and schools and homes, until either in the private spending or public voting of the smallest sum we know exactly whether we are so far determining expenditure and influence towards enlarging, say, the influence and example of renascent Florence in one generation or of decadent Versailles in another. There is no danger of awaking this consciousness too fully; for since we have ceased consciously to cite and utilise the high examples of history we have been the more faithfully, because sub-consciously and automatically, continuing and extending later and lower developments.


Hence, after a Liberal and an Imperial generation, each happy in their respective visions of wealth and expanding greatness [Page: 115], the current renewal of civic interests naturally takes the form of an awakening survey of our actual environment. First, a literal mapping of its regional elements, and then an historic interpretation of these–not, alas, merely or mainly in terms of the cities of sacred or classic tradition, nor of the Mediaeval or Renaissance cities which followed these, but as stupendous extensions of the mediaeval Ghetto, of the Wapping Stairs, of the Lancashire factories and of the Black Country, relieved by the coarse jollities of Restoration London, and adorned for the most part, with debased survivals from the Italian and the French Renaissance. There is thus no more question in our civic discussions of “bringing in” or “leaving out” geography or history; we have been too long unconscious of them, as was M. Jourdain of his speaking in prose.

But what of the opening Future? May its coming social developments not be discerned by the careful observer in germs and buds already formed or forming, or deduced by the thinker from sociological principles? I believe in large measure both; yet cannot within these limits attempt to justify either. Enough for the present, if it be admitted that the practical man in his thought and action in the present is mainly the as yet too unconscious child of the past, and that in the city he is still working within the grasp of natural conditions.

To realise the geographic and historic factors of our city’s life is thus the first step to comprehension of the present, one indispensable to any attempt at the scientific forecast of the future, which must avoid as far as it can the dangers of mere utopianism.


No discussion of the preliminaries and fundamentals of Civics can omit some consideration of the vast and ever growing literature of cities. But how are we to utilise this? How continue it? How co-ordinate it with the needed independent and first-hand survey of city by city? And how apply this whole knowledge of past and present towards civic action?

The answer must plainly be a concrete one. Every city [Page: 116] however small, has already a copious literature of its topography and history in the past; one, in fact, so ample that its mere bibliography may readily fill a goodly volume,[1] to which the specialist will long be adding fresh entries. This mass of literature may next be viewed as the material for a comprehensive monograph, well enriched with maps and illustrations, such as many cities can boast; and this again may be condensed into a guide-book. Guide-books have long been excellent in their descriptive and historical detail, and are becoming increasingly interpretative also, especially since Mr. Grant Allen transferred his evolutionary insight and his expository clearness from natural to civic history.

[1] e.g., Erskine Beveridge, LL.D., Bibliography of Dunfermline.–_Dunfermline, 1902._ 8vo.

After this general and preliminary survey of geographic environment and historic development, there nowadays begins to appear the material of a complementary and contemporary volume, the Social Survey proper. Towards this, statistical materials are partly to be found amid parliamentary and municipal reports and returns, economic journals and the like, but a fresh and first-hand survey in detail is obviously necessary. In this class of literature, Mr. Booth’s monumental Survey of London, followed by others, such as Mr. Rowntree’s of York, have already been so widely stimulating and suggestive that it may safely be predicted that before many years the Social Survey of any given city will be as easily and naturally obtainable as is at present its guide-book; and the rationalised census of the present condition of its people, their occupation and real wages, their family budget and culture-level, should be as readily ascertainable from the one, as their antecedents understood or their monuments visited by help of the other.

But these two volumes–“The City: Past and Present,”–are not enough. Is not a third volume imaginable and possible, that of the opening Civic Future? Having taken full note of places as they were and are, of things as they have come about, and of people as they are–of their occupations, families, and institutions, their ideas and ideals–may we not to some extent discern, then patiently plan out, at length boldly suggest, something of [Page: 117] their actual or potential development? And may not, must not, such discernment, such planning, while primarily, of course, for the immediate future, also take account of the remoter and higher issues which a city’s indefinitely long life and correspondingly needed foresight and statesmanship involve? Such a volume would thus differ widely from the traditional and contemporary “literature of Utopias” in being regional instead of non-regional, indeed ir-regional and so realisable, instead of being unrealisable and unattainable altogether. The theme of such a volume would thus be to indicate the practicable alternatives, and to select and to define from these the lines of development of the legitimate _Eu-topia_ possible in the given city, and characteristic of it; obviously, therefore, a very different thing from a vague _Ou-topia_, concretely realisable nowhere. Such abstract counsels of perfection as the descriptions of the ideal city, from Augustine through More or Campanella and Bacon to Morris, have been consolatory to many, to others inspiring. Still, a Utopia is one thing, a plan for our city improvement is another.

Some concrete, if still fragmentary, materials towards such a volume are, of course, to be found in all municipal offices, though scattered between the offices of the city engineer and health officer, the architect and park superintendent; while the private architect and landscape gardener, the artist, sometimes even the municipal voters and their representatives, may all have ideas of their own. But though our cities are still as a whole planless, their growth as yet little better than a mere casual accretion and agglomeration, if not a spreading blight, American and German cities are now increasingly affording examples of comprehensive design of extension and of internal improvement. As a specific example of such an attempt towards the improvement of a British city, one not indeed comprehending all aspects of its life, but detailed and reasoned so far as it goes, and expressing that continuity of past and present into future which has been above argued for, I am permitted by the courtesy of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust to lay on the Society’s library table an early copy of a recent study of practicable possibilities in a city typically suitable for consideration from the present standpoint, since presenting within a moderate and readily intelligible [Page: 118] scale a very marked combination of historic interests, and of contemporary and growing activity, both industrial and cultural, with hopeful civic outlook.

That co-adjustment of social survey and social service which has been above argued for as the essential idea of civics as applied sociology is thus no abstract principle, but a concrete and practicable method. Yet it is one not lacking in generality of application. For what we have reached is really the conception of an _Encyclopaedia Civica_, to which each city should contribute the Trilogy of its Past, its Present, and its Future. Better far, as life transcends books, we may see, and yet more, forsee, the growth of civic consciousness and conscience, the awakening of citizenship towards civic renascence. All this the production of such volumes would at one imply and inspire–life ever producing its appropriate expression in literature, and literature reacting upon the ennoblement of life.

Apart altogether from what may be the quality and defects of particular volumes, such as those cited as examples of each part of such a proposed civic trilogy, one as yet nowhere complete, the very conception of such a possible threefold series may be of some service. For this would present a continuous whole, at once sociological and civic–the views and the resources of the scholar and the educationist with their treasures of historic culture, of the man of action with his mastery of immediate affairs, of the thinker with his vision of the opening future, now all co-ordinated by help of the design of the artist, and thence to be gradually realised in the growing heritage of the city, the enlarging life of the citizen.

NOTE–As an example of the concrete application to a particular city, of the sociological methods and principles indicated in the above paper, Prof. Geddes exhibited an illustrated volume embodying the results of his studies and designs towards the improvement of Dunfermline, under the Trust recently established by Mr. Carnegie. This has since been published:

P. GEDDES. City Development. Park Gardens and Culture Institutes; a Report to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust. With 138 illustrations. Edinburgh, etc.. 1904.

[Page: 119] DISCUSSION

The Chairman (MR. CHARLES BOOTH) in opening the discussion said:

The paper we have just heard read is one of the most complete and charming papers on a great and interesting subject I have ever heard. I think you will all agree in this, and I hope the discussion which follows will emphasise and, if that is possible, add to the wealth of ideas that this paper contains.

MR EBENEZER HOWARD (Founder of the Garden City Association) said:

I have read and re-read–in the proof forwarded to me–Professor Geddes’ wonderfully luminous and picturesque paper with much interest. He has given us a graphic description of the geographic process which leads to the development of the city. We see vividly the gradual stages by which the city grows and swells, with the descent of the population from the hillsides into the valleys, even as the river which flows through the city is fed continually by the streams which flow down to it. But is there not this essential difference between the gathering waters of heaven, as they pour into the great city, and the gathering tide of population, which follows the path of the waters? The waters flow through the city on, on toward the mighty ocean, and are then gradually gathered upward into the soft embraces of the clouds and wafted back again to the hills, whence they flow down once more to the valleys. But the living stream of men, women, and children flows from the country-side and leaves it more and more bare of active, vigorous, healthy life: it does not, like the waters, “return again to cover the earth,” but moves ever on to the great city, and from thence, at least for the great majority, there is no chance of more than, at best, a very short stay in the country. No: the tide flows resistlessly [Page: 120] onward to make more crowded our overcrowded tenements, to enlarge our overgrown cities, to cause suburb to spread beyond suburb, to submerge more and more the beautiful fields and hilly slopes which used to lie near the busy life of the people, to make the atmosphere more foul, and the task of the social reformer more and yet more difficult.

But surely there must be a way, could we but discover it, of imitating the skill and bountifulness of Nature, by creating channels through which some of our population shall be attracted back to the fields; so that there shall be a stream of population pouring from the city into the country, till a healthy balance is restored, and we have solved the twin problems of rural depopulation and of the overcrowded, overgrown city.

This brings me to the second branch of Prof. Geddes’ paper, the historical. The Professor reminds us how vestiges of one civilisation lie super-imposed upon another, like geological strata, and asks. “Understanding the present as the development of the past, are we not preparing also to understand the future as the development of the present?” Following this line of thought, I venture to suggest that while the age in which we live is the age of the great, closely-compacted, overcrowded city, there are already signs, for those who can read them, of a coming change so great and so momentous that the twentieth century will be known as the period of the great exodus, the return to the land, the period when by a great and conscious effort a new fabric of civilisation shall be reared by those who knew how to apply the knowledge gained by “Social Survey to Social Service.” What are the signs? What words can we place under the head of “Incipient” in Prof. Geddes’ diagram? I would suggest, for one of Prof. Geddes’ interrogation marks might be substituted “Decentralisation of Industry”–as a great, but yet incipient movement, represented by Port Sunlight, Bournville, Garden City. For there are now many agencies at work making for industrial decentralisation. Industries are being driven out of the great towns by the excessive rents and rates which have to be paid there–by the difficulty of obtaining adequate space for the modern factory, a one-storey building; and for the homes of our workers, which must be vastly different to what they now are if England is to maintain her place among the nations. And while factories are being driven from the city, they are also being attracted to the country by its newly-discovered potentialities. Thus Messrs. Lever Brothers, crowded out of Warrington, established an entirely new town on a new site at Port Sunlight; and, because the site was new and raw, it was therefore possible for Mr. Lever to plan his little town with a single eye to the best and most desirable conditions, alike from an industrial and a health and housing point of view. And the same is true of Bournville. Bournville is one of the most beautiful villages in the world, largely again because of the potentialities of a new site acquired for the definite purpose of building thereon a village in which overcrowding shall be deliberately and permanently prevented, [Page: 121] and in which work inside the factory may be varied by work in the garden. Now that these successful experiments have been carried out in this country, is it not time that the idea of establishing new industries on new sites, and of surrounding those industries with healthy homes, should be carried forward on a larger scale, with wider and more concerted aims–carried forward, too, in such a manner as to make it possible for the small manufacturer to take part in a movement which has proved to be so beneficial alike to employer and employed? It is out of this thought that the Garden City idea has grown, an idea now in course of being fulfilled. Three thousand eight hundred acres of land, or nearly ten times the area of Bournville or Port Sunlight, have been acquired in Hertfordshire, two miles west of the town of Hitchin, and on the branch line of railway between that town and Cambridge. State aid has not been sought; that would indeed be weary work. But a company has been formed, through the untiring efforts of the Garden City Association; plans for the town have been carefully prepared, plans which, of course, have regard to the contours of the land (which were first taken, showing every change of level of five feet), to the preservation of its natural beauties–its trees and the picturesque villages of Norton and Willian; to the necessity for railway sidings and railway station, now, thanks to the Great Northern Railway, already provided; to the making of roads of easy gradient and of suitable width, affording access to different parts of the estate, actual work on which is progressing; the careful guarding from contamination of our water supply, already proved to be abundant; the provision of a reservoir of suitable elevation, now in course of construction; a system of drainage, about to be started with; the provision of parks and playgrounds within the town, as well as a wide belt of agricultural land around it; sites for homes for 30,000 persons, with good sized gardens. About six cottages have already been built, not by the Company but by private enterprise, while many others are just about to be started upon; the setting apart of sites for schools, churches, and other public buildings, while plans are in preparation for lighting the town, as well as for providing it with motive power.

The programme which I have sketched out is certainly not too bold or comprehensive for the British race. If a hundredth part of the organising skill which the Japanese and the Russians are showing in the great war now in progress were shown by ourselves as citizens in our great civil war against disease and dirt, poverty and overcrowding, we could not only build many new cities on the best models, but could also bring our old towns into line with the new and better order. Prof. Geddes wishes well, I know, to the Garden City Association, a propagandist body, and to its first child, the Garden City Company; and I am sure you will all unite with me in the hope that the best and most lasting success may crown the generous gift of Mr. Carnegie of L500,000 to the City of Dunfermline, and reward the efforts of the Trustees and of Prof. Geddes to make, by the application of modern [Page: 122] skill, science and art, the ancient city of Dunfermline a centre of sweetness and light, stimulating us all to higher and yet higher efforts to secure civic, national and imperial well-being.


Like most of the audience, doubtless, he came not to speak but to draw ever fresh inspiration from Prof. Geddes. But there was one aspect of the subject he would like to bring out and emphasise. He referred to the sociological institute, which, under the name of the Outlook Tower, had grown up in connection with the School of Sociology which Prof. Geddes had founded and developed in Edinburgh. That institute was at once an organisation for teaching and for research, for social education, and for civic action. It was, in fact, a concrete and working application of the principle indicated in the paper as the very foundation of Civics–“social survey for social service.” And, seeing that the Outlook Tower was an institution designed in every respect for application to any given locality, he urged the Sociological Society to advocate its general extension, so that no region should be without its own sociological institute or Outlook Tower.

If one individual could accomplish so much, what could not be accomplished by the sociologists of our day who would concentrate themselves, each on his own locality, not necessarily to do the work, but to give the inspiration which would call out the work of collecting just that material which Prof. Geddes suggested all through his paper was one of the great needs of our time? And so one hoped that papers of this kind would not merely lead to discussion, but to workers accumulating results of this kind, giving the inspiration to others, and thus laying up treasures for the sociologists of the future for their interpretation. Thus, the Sociological Society should be not only the one scientific society in constant touch with all the leading brains over the country, but it should be an inspiration, as Prof. Geddes has himself been, to groups of workers everywhere for just the kind of work which the Sociological Society has been founded to develop.


I would first add my tribute to this extremely interesting and stimulating paper. It recalled confabulations I had with Prof. Geddes, many years ago, when he was first formulating in Edinburgh those ideas which have since become so widely known. I would like, however, to suggest a few criticisms. The paper is, broadly speaking, an application of the view of a biologist to Sociology. It is not so much an application of Darwin’s view as that of Von Baer. Prof. Geddes has characterised his paper as one of elementary preliminaries, but he has really contributed a paper that [Page: 123] would form part of a preliminary study in a series of studies in Sociology. The paper does not quite bear out its title: “Civics: as Applied Sociology.” The application has not begun. The somewhat disparaging remarks on encyclopaedias of general knowledge, further, might well be applied to the scheme of an encyclopaedia of the natural history of every city and every village as an original centre. This atomism will not help Sociology. Had he to master all that, the sociologist’s life would be a burden not to be borne, and we would never get to applied sociology at all. There is a danger, too, in following this line, of fastening attention on one stage of evolution and leaving it there. The true principle is that evolution is eternal and continuous; and I think harm may be done, possibly, when you take, say, the phenomenon of the communication of general knowledge in schools and call it a derivation from the French _Encyclopedie_. Why leave it there? Where did that come from? If you are going to trace the simple evolution of civic forms, if you are to trace how they have come about, it will not do to stick at a given point. This is a survival of that. That is a survival of something else. The French _Encyclopedie_ will have to be traced back to the encyclopaedia of the mediaeval period; and even to the still earlier period of Isidore of Seville. Then again, there is a danger, I think, analogous to the danger met with in early botany–the danger of confusing a resemblance with a relationship. It is extremely interesting to speculate that the Place de l’Etoile is an evolution from the plan of the game-forest, with its shooting avenues radiating from a centre, but it would be difficult to show that there is any historical connection. The thing is not proved.

Of course, the vital question is not this tracing of evolution. The question is: Is “Civics” to be only the study of forms? If so, Sociology is a dead science, and will effect little practical good until it is vivified by such suggestions as Mr. Crane has put in his paper. Mr. Walter Crane brought in a vital question when he said: “How are you going to modify the values of your civic life unless you grapple with political problems?” I am not forgetting that Prof. Geddes promises to deal in another paper with the civics of the future; but I insist that it will have to grapple with political questions. As he says, a city is not a place, but “a drama in time.” The question for the sociological student of history is: How has this inequality of wealth and of service arisen, and how is it to be prevented in the future? That is the problem we have to study if we wish to make sociology a vital interest. A definition of progress is really the first step in sociology. Prof. Geddes’ next paper should give us a definition of progress, and it is better that we begin to fight over a definition of progress, in order to get a dynamic agreement, than that we should multiply the archaeological study of many towns. I admit that it is very interesting. In travelling in South Africa, I often tried to gather how communities began; what, for example, was the nucleus of this or that village. It was surprising how very few had an idea of any nucleus at all. I deprecate the idea, however, that [Page: 124] we are all to amass an enormous accumulation of such researches. Mr. Booth’s single compilation for London is a study for years; but Mr. Booth’s admirable investigation of the difficulties of life among the poor of London does not of itself give any new impulse to the solution of the problem of London. It merely gives exact knowledge in place of general knowledge. The problem of sociology arose on the general knowledge. I fear lest the work of sociology should run to an extension of this admirable study instead of to the stimulation of action taken on that particular knowledge, or on more general knowledge. We all knew there was plenty of poverty, and how it was caused. We all had Ideals as to how it was to be got rid of in the future; but the question is: Is the collection of detail or the prescription of social method the kind of activity that the Sociological Society is to take up?


I am not sure that I agree with Mr. Robertson that it is desirable to define either “progress” or “civilisation.” On the whole, their chances lie rather in the great variety of ideas of what constitutes them than in any hard-and-fast notion of their meaning. They are generalisations of what is, rather than an object towards which effort should tend. But neither do I agree with Prof. Geddes’ restriction of “civics” to the mere outward part of municipal effort. In America the word “civics” is applied to the rights and duties of citizens, and I should like to see Prof. Geddes include in Civics the connection between citizen life and the outward improvement of cities. I am sure, however, Professor Geddes, as a practical man, will deal rather with realities than theoretical views on the subject for which he has done so much himself. Edinburgh owes more than many are willing to admit to Prof. Geddes. I think Ramsay Lodge one of the greatest embellishments of the Castle Hill in Edinburgh. I hope he will now be successful in doing something still more admirable for my native town of Dunfermline. My friend Mr. Carnegie, whose native town it also is, I believe intends to show by an object lesson what can be done for all cities. Prof. Geddes is helping him in this work with his suggestions. I hope they will be carried out. In America there are several very beautiful cities. No one can ever forget Washington, which is truly a garden city. No money is spared in America to beautify and healthify (excuse the barbarism) the habitations of the thousands. A beautiful city is an investment for health, intellect, imagination. Genius all the world over is associated, wherever it has been connected with cities, with beautiful cities. To grow up among things of beauty ennobles the population. But I should like to see Prof. Geddes extend his projects for Dunfermline to the population itself. Most of you know what Mr. Henderson did to utilise the Edinburgh [Page: 125] police in the care of children. The future of the country depends upon them. The subject is too serious to continue to be left to the haphazard mercies of indifferent parents. Every child born is an agent for good or for evil among the community, and the community cannot afford to neglect how it is brought up, the circumstances in which it has its being, the environment from which it derives its character and tendencies. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but need of food and insufficient clothing develop in the child an inventiveness that is not for the good of the community. It seems a matter of too great an importance to be left even to private initiative, as was done under Mr. Henderson’s regime in Edinburgh; but everywhere else, or nearly so, very little is done by even private initiative for the protection of the children against their vicious environment. In short, I do not think that civics, in the sense in which my friend Prof. Geddes treats it, is a complete subject at all. Civics, to my mind, includes everything that relates to the citizen. Everywhere something is being done in one direction or another to make them capable, prosperous, and happy. In America happiness is taught in the schools. Every schoolmaster’s and schoolmistress’s first duty is to set an example of a happy frame of mind; smiling and laughing are encouraged, and it is not thought that the glum face is at all necessary for the serious business of life. In fact, the glum face is a disqualification; is associated with failure, and bad luck and ill-nature. In Germany the schoolmaster is in the first place a trainer of the body. One of his chief duties is to watch and prevent the deterioration of the eyesight, to promote the development of the lungs, to prevent spinal deviation. The second part of his business is to watch over the character of the child, and only the third part is to ram knowledge into the poor little mind. And wherever you go over the world you will find something in the course of being done in civics, as I understand the subject. I thank Prof. Geddes for what he is doing for Dunfermline, and hope he will understand “progress” without requiring to define it.


(Author of “_Aspects of Social Evolution_”) said:

While agreeing with Prof. Geddes in his belief in the importance of institutional and geographical studies as a basis for the investigation of the development of cities, it yet seems to me that these studies cannot prove of supreme value to society unless they are accompanied by a detailed examination of the _natural_ characteristics of all individuals who have been born into and existed in, or merely dwelt in, these surroundings. It is not enough to trace out, however accurately, the various stages of a town’s growth from its commencement to the present time, because _the cause_ of [Page: 126] the evolution of any city aggregate lies deeper, is in large part animate, and not inanimate, in character. The value of the surroundings depends at least as much upon the capacity of the individual citizen, singly and collectively, to utilise what he or she is brought in contact with as upon the peculiarities of these surroundings themselves. Place, tradition, social organisation, individual development, education, are factors in town evolution that cannot safely be overlooked, and they all vary from age to age and in place and place.

If it were possible to completely exchange the inhabitants of a large town in England with those of an equally large town in France two groups of changes would become more or less rapidly observable: (1) the French and English citizens would adapt themselves, as far as they desired and were able, to their altered conditions; (2) the characteristics of both towns would gradually change, in spite of geographical position, in response to the altered human needs. Similarly, a town composed of individuals who are naturally uncultured and unprogressive will tend to preserve its uncultured and unprogressive characters more than another that has alert citizens to carry on its activities. Every profession and every trade tends to foster its own social atmosphere; and towns will vary with their industrial life, and individuals favourably disposed to this atmosphere will come to the town, and those unfavourably inclined to it will leave. _These changing citizens, as they act upon and react to their surroundings and vary in their powers age by age, are the real evolvers of the conditions in which they dwell_; hence the citizen must not be omitted from our study if we are to understand city growth.

In other words, I think that every investigation of civic, and for that matter country life should be studied from two aspects: (1) to note the peculiarities, growth and development of the material, non-living and non-thinking elements in the problem–the buildings, their geographical position, their age, their fitness for past and present life, and the distinctive local features that are evolving or retrogressing with the multiplication of some trades and industries and the decline of others in each area that is studied; (2) the change in the quality of the citizens themselves through racial, educational, and other factors, noting how far ideals are altering, not only in the mass of individuals taken as a whole, but also by examining the changing outlook in every trade and profession. With these two parallel lines of investigation to study, we could then determine how far environment–social and climatic–how far racial and individual characteristics have been powerful in the moulding of the fabric around us.

With these two lines of study to our hands, we could predict the vitality, the growing power, and the future possibilities of the social life of which we are a tiny though not an insignificant part; we could, knowing something of the response that we make to that which surrounds us, form some estimate of how the future ages will develop, and, knowing the [Page: 127] intensity of the different national desires for progress _and the causes which are likely to arouse such desires_, we could realise what will stimulate and what will retard all that is best in our civic life.

PROFESSOR EARL BARNES (in moving a vote of thanks) said:

For years I have been accumulating a debt of obligation to Prof. Geddes for ideas, suggestions, and large synthesis of life, and it gives me special pleasure to voice the feeling of this meeting concerning the paper read to us this afternoon. To me, as an American, it is especially interesting to hear this presentation of life as an organic whole. Life is but a period of education, and if there is nothing behind this present moment of life it is all extremely insignificant. To an American, who has lived at No. 1067 in 63rd Street, Philadelphia, and at No. 1718 in G Street, in Washington, it is profoundly interesting to think of the possibility of a man’s so living that his whole existence shall be significant, so that the realities of his world, geographical, geological, and material, and all that long development of humanity through the historic past–that all these things will be really and truly significant to him. Prof. Geddes has himself shown us that is possible. Any man who has gone to Edinburgh and seen the restoration of the old life that has been carried out there under his hand knows it can be done. I suppose we all came here to hear Professor Geddes speak on practical affairs because his name is now connected with the plans for making a city that shall be really expressive of all its potentialities to all of its people. I am personally profoundly grateful to him for his paper; and I move you that he be given a very hearty vote of thanks.

The Chairman. (MR. CHARLES BOOTH), in closing the discussion, said: I myself entirely agree with what Mr Robertson has said as to the extreme difficulty of bringing investigations of the kind referred to, to practical conclusions–practical points. Practical work at present needs the most attention. I perhaps am too old to do it, but I feel the attraction of that kind of work, and that was one reason I was sorry Mr Loch had to leave before we could hear what he might have to say. The description I have given of London does seem to be a foggy labyrinth I agree, but nevertheless I cannot but think that we do require a complete conception if we are to do the definite work of putting different people in their proper places in an organic whole, such as a city is. I do not think we can do without it, and I regard the paper of this evening as an important contribution [Page: 128] to that complete conception which I feel we need. I should like each worker and thinker to have and to know his place in the scheme of civic improvement; and I think it perfectly possible for every man to know what it is that he is trying to do, what contribution it is that he ought to give to that joint life which is called here civics, which is the life of a city and the life in the city. One man cannot possibly concentrate it all in himself. Within a society such as the Sociological Society a general scheme is possible in which each individual and each society shall play its acknowledged and recognised part. It does not follow that the work done in one city can apply as an example to another. Individuality has too strong a hold; but each town may work out something for itself. I have been very much interested in the work which Mr. Rowntree has done in York, on which he was kind enough to consult me. He entered upon it on quite other grounds from mine, but so far as the ground was common between him and me we tried to have a common basis. Those of you who have not read Mr. Horsfall’s volumes on Manchester would do well to do so. Prof. Geddes gave us a vivid picture of a larger regional unit which culminates geographically in the city as industrial climax. In his particular instance he referred, I take, to Dundee. In Dundee there is at this moment an inquiry being started, and I am in communication with those who are doing it, and I hope it will add something to the completeness of the picture we have of that city. In Dundee they have excessive difficulties in respect to crowding and female labour. What I suggested was, that they should make a special study of such circumstances as are special to Dundee. Labour there is very largely sack-making and jute manufacture, and there is a great deal of girl labour; and that is one of the special subjects that will be considered in that inquiry.

Then, with regard to the preservation of such of the natural beauties that do remain even quite near to busy town centres, surely it is of the greatest importance that they should be watched and protected and preserved. Prof. Geddes has contributed a portion of his practical work to that practical question at Dunfermline. His charming volume on Dunfermline (“A Study in City Development”) shows what beautiful features there are near Dunfermline, and how much may be done to preserve and improve them in ways that are most interesting to study. His use of photography in this matter is extraordinarily successful. Prof. Geddes has photographed a scene as it now is, with its background and distance and its squalid foreground, already ruined by the debris of the city–old tin pots and every [Page: 129] kind of rubbish–thrown down by the side of the stream, which is naturally beautiful. By manipulating the photographic plates he wipes out that which he does not want and introduces other features, including a little waterfall; and you have, instead of a miserable suburb, a dignified park. Well now, that is practical work. It has in it that element which he has described by a question-mark in his diagram, the element of forecast. You have the same idea in Manchester, in Mr. Horsfall’s work. They have laid out their map of Manchester and shown in what way it may develop, so as not to spoil the beauty that remains on two sides of Manchester. There is really exquisitely beautiful natural scenery close to Manchester, which may be entirely spoiled or preserved, according as a forecast is made and forethought taken. This is not a question on which there is reason to think that people will disagree. The difficulties are always supposed to be financial. It is a sad thing that we should be so hampered by our methods of finance that we throw away opportunities to retain these actual beauties which undoubtedly add to the actual money value of a district. I cannot suppose that the way in which cities are laid out with narrow streets really results in an increase of value. The surroundings of our cities are undeveloped estates, which we have only to agree amongst ourselves how to lay out, and everybody would benefit by such joint action. There is an excellent illustration in regard to that in Mr. Horsfall’s work in connection with Germany. It must be said that from Germany there is a great deal to learn in civic matters. In one of its towns the properties lie in extraordinarily long strips. It is the final result of properties having been measured by the length of the plough’s run. When that method is applied to town sites, it is not convenient for streets; and there are some quarters in this German town ruined in this way, and the people have agreed together to improve matters. Every owner is to be given credit for his share in the total value of the improvement that is found to accrue from the re-arrangement of these undesirable divisions, and any difference of opinion as to the just share and proportion is to be referred to an impartial arbitrator. All the owners will gain, though some a little more than others. That is an example that we may do well to try and follow, and in some way or other improve the money value, and social value, and hygienic value of towns, and if necessary compel the carrying out of improvements when some few might be disposed to hold out against them.


From PROF. BALDWIN BROWN (Professor of Fine Art in the University of Edinburgh)

I am glad of this opportunity of saying how cordially I agree with the method adopted by my friend Professor Geddes in dealing with the life of cities. He treats the modern community and its material shell as things of organic growth, with a past and a future as well as a present, whereas we too often see these wider considerations ignored in favour of some exigency of the moment. A historic British town has recently furnished a striking object-lesson in this connection. The town possesses portions of an ancient city wall and fosse that were made at a time when the town was, for the moment, the most important in Great Britain. Yet the Town Council, a year ago, destroyed part of this wall and filled a section of the fosse for the purpose of providing a site for a new elementary school. No doubt, in that school, books “approved by the Department” will instruct scholars in the past history of the burgh, but the living witness of that history must first of all be carefully obliterated. All the rest of this ancient and historic enceinte was condemned a few weeks ago to complete destruction, merely on the plea that the site would be convenient for workmen’s dwellings. The monument has now been saved, but it has taken the whole country to do it!

Here were chosen officials, governors of no mean city, absolutely oblivious of these important interests committed to their care, and all for want of having drilled into them these broader views which Professor Geddes puts forward so well.

He has himself done practical work in Edinburgh on the lines he lays down, and I have lately had occasion to note, and call attention to the advantage to the city of much wise conservatism in regard to our older buildings which he and his associates have shown.

In Edinburgh we have the advantage that our older monuments, [Page: 131] in which so much of the past life of the city is enshrined, are firm and solid; and it takes some trouble to knock them down. Hence for some time to come we shall preserve here object-lessons in civic development that will be of interest to the country at large.

From MR. WALTER CRANE (President of Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society)

Professor Geddes’ very interesting “Study in City Development” is highly suggestive, and shows how great a difference thoughtful and tasteful treatment might make in dealing with such problems. It is sad to think of the opportunities wasted, and of the more ignorant and often too hasty clearances for traffic which have often been apparently the sole motives in city improvement. The conservation of historic buildings, whenever possible, the planting of trees along our streets, the laying out of gardens, the insistence upon a proportional amount of air and open space to new buildings would go a long way towards making our bricks-and-mortar joyless wildernesses into something human and habitable.

Whether, under favourable circumstances and the rare public spirit of private owners, much can be done, or to any wide extent, so long as absolute individual ownership in land and ground values is allowed, seems to me very doubtful. We cannot hope to see great social improvements without great economic changes, but every effort in the direction of improving the beauty of our cities is welcome to all who have the well-being of the community at heart; and such work as Prof. Geddes is doing should arouse the keenest interest and the earnest attention of all who realise its immense social importance.

From MR. J.H. HARLEY, M.A.

If sociology is ever to vindicate itself as an art, it must be able to analyse and explain the present, and to some extent at least to cast the horoscope of the future. It must feel its way through all the tangled labyrinths of city life, and show us where we have arrived and whither we are going. But this is exactly the part of Professor Geddes’ Applied Sociology where he becomes most vague and unsatisfactory. “Enough for the present,” we are told, “if it be admitted that the practical man in his thought and action in the present is mainly as yet the too unconscious child of the past, and that in the city he is still working within the grasp of natural conditions.” Now we must all be willing to admit that the present is the child of the past, and that we cannot adequately understand [Page: 132] the present until we have led up to the present by the study of its antecedents more and less remote. But what Professor Geddes fails to bring out is that it is only in the present or the more immediate past that the City has really become a City in the modern sense of the word. The City as City is a product of the Industrial Revolution. Its huge and casual assemblages of human life, its overcrowding, its poverty line, its East End and its West End, its infantile mortality, its trades massed in their own particular districts, it aliens, its criminals and its vices–all these problems of social pathology arise from the fact that the conditions of modern industry have brought people together who have few interests in common, and who were compelled to arrange themselves in some kind of decent order within a limited area, without sufficient time being given to evolve a suitable environment, or to prepare themselves for the environment which they actually found on every side of them. London in the past, therefore, cannot help us so very much to solve the riddles of London in the present, because London in the past had not developed these social growths or offered a mature ground to those social parasites which make us sometimes despair of being able to get much insight into the London of the present.

The fact seems to be that Prof. Geddes conceives sociology too much as a primary and too little as a secondary science. He defines applied sociology as the application of social survey to social science, when social ratiocination or social philosophy are needed before one can be said to have gauged the extent of the influence which this comprehensive science may have in our actual practice or on our Budget of the future. No doubt, “observation, so far from excluding interpretation, is just the very means of preparing for it,” but this preparation must be made in the various specialisms which make up the complete or encyclopaedic science of sociology. To me it seems an unwarrantable narrowing of the scope or significance of sociology to say that there is no better method available of teaching it “than that of regional survey, historical as well as geographical.” Surely “regional survey” Is the appropriate method in the very simplest and most concrete parts of the complete science of sociology, and even when we come to history proper we must do very much more than make a regional survey. It is very interesting, no doubt, to “survey” history in the course of a summer ramble to the ruins of some old monastery, but unless the monks had kept records of what had been done there in bygone days, the mere outward survey will not carry us further than Prof. Geddes is carried in the very general map which he makes of the whole field of history. In other words, history, in any proper sense, demands more than “survey” in Prof. Geddes’ sense of the word. It calls to its aid linguistics, criticism, archaeology, jurisprudence, and politics–there must be comparison and criticism as well as “survey.” History is the laboratory in which the sociologist sees his social experiments working out their [Page: 133] results, and history is to the sociologist what experiment is to the physician, or the comparative method to the biologist.

This being so, the scope of “civics” as “applied sociology” is immensely widened. The present is the child of the past, but we see that it is only in the present that such ancient groups as the colony of Hanseatic merchants in Old London have shown us what has been the ultimate significance of their embryological life. The modern city bristles with sociological problems which demand a knowledge of most of the specialisms included in the complete science of sociology, and almost invite us to cast the horoscope of the future. We see, as Booth and Rowntree saw before us, the poverty line like a fiery portent at every point of our study, and we are led finally to ask ourselves whether M. Arthur Bauer was not right in choosing the title “Les Classes Sociales” as the most characteristic title he could give to his recent and most suggestive analysis of the general characteristics of social life.


(President, Manchester Citizen’s Association, &c.)

The teaching of the paper seems to me to be most sound and helpful. The town of the future–I trust of the near future–must by means of its schools, its museums, and galleries, its playgrounds, parks and gymnasia, its baths, its wide tree-planted streets and the belt of unspoilt country which must surround it, bring all its inhabitants in some degree under the _best_ influences of all the regions and all the stages of civilisation, the influences of which, but not the best influences, contribute, and have contributed, to make our towns what they are.


(Author of “_A Short History of Citizenship_”)

The failures of democratic governments in the past have been attributable, in part, to the lack of intelligence and self-consciousness among the mass of those who were given a voice in the government of their country. Citizenship, like morality, was allowed to grow by instinct; it was never systematised as a science, or applied as an art. Sparta and Athens approached towards a system of civics much less elaborate than that expounded by Professor Geddes; but in Sparta citizenship became inseparable from Nationalism, and in Athens it scarcely rose above Municipalism. In more modern times, civic education has had to encounter the same difficulty as in America, where the young citizen’s first duty is to salute his flag, and as in London, where “Civics” is distributed in doles of local [Page: 134] history in which the municipality plays a part altogether out of proportion to its relation to the country, the age, and the world. Civics, as the applied sociology of each individual and each body of interests, has but begun to be dreamed of; and before it can be properly developed it is desirable, if not necessary, that the general public should know something more than at present both of the historic development of the “civic” idea, and of the psychology of aggregations as differentiated from the psychology of the individual. Not until we can make “the man in the street” a conscious citizen, instead of a political automaton, shall we be able to enlist his sympathies with “Civics”; and without those sympathies the sociologist’s “Civics” will, I fear, be but partial and inaccurate.


(H.M. Registration Examiner for East of Scotland).

There is an elusiveness here and there in this paper which has helped to confirm me in the opinion that it is well to emphasise the fact that Prof. Geddes is not only a dreamer of lofty dreams but a doer and a practical initiator. He has expressed himself not only in words but in art and in architecture, and in educational organisation; and he has in many ways, sometimes indirectly, influenced scholastic and civic activities.

If from the Outlook Tower he dreams of an idealised Edinburgh he has only to reply to the scoffer who asks, “What have you done?” “_Circumspice!_” There stand the settlements he initiated, the houses beautiful, bright, delectable; and the tower itself is an embodiment of his ideas, an encyclopaedia in stone and in storeys.

We must, in criticising this paper, take into account these attempts towards realisation of its principles. The sociological evolutionist is “concerned primarily with origins, but ultimately and supremely with ideals,” we were reminded in a recent paper read before this Society. And in the same paper it was affirmed that, “through the formulation of its larger generalisations as ideals, sociology may hope to achieve the necessary return from theory to practice.” Thus, if Civics is applied Sociology, we must rest its claims on these criteria. What, then, we have to ask is:–(1) What actually are the generalisations of the present paper? (2) How far they are warranted by verifiable sociological testimony, and (3) What results do they yield when transformed by the touch of emotion into ideals of action? To attempt an adequate answer to these questions would perhaps transcend the limits of this discussion. But merely to raise these questions of presupposition should tend to clarify the discussion. Coming to detail, I may say, as one whose occupation is demographic, I regret the unavoidable briefness of the reference in “Civics” to a “rationalised census of the present condition of the people.”

[Page: 135] No one, however, who has studied the concluding portion of “The Evolution of Sex” can accuse Prof. Geddes of ignoring questions of _population_; and his eulogium, written ten years ago, of “Mr. Charles Booth as one of our own latest and best Economists,” is familiar to all readers of “Education for Economics and Citizenship.” In that extremely suggestive treatise, Prof. Geddes further points out that population must have a primary place in consideration, and that “our studies of the characteristic occupation of region by region are the essential material of a study of its whole civilisation.”

Accepting Mr. Branford’s definition of _occupation_ as “any and every form of human endeavour, past, present, and future,” we see that occupation must have a large place in the description, explanation, and forecasting of the evolution of cities–such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee–in the scheme of survey outlined so sweepingly in “Civics.”

“Life and Labour of the People in London” contains several general observations almost equally applicable to our largest Scottish cities, with the demographic conditions of which my official duties give me special opportunities for becoming familiar and for regional survey.

In the concluding volume of that great contribution to sociology Mr. Booth (page 23) remarks:–

“Many influences conspire to cause the poor to multiply almost in proportion to their poverty, and operate in the other direction in the case of the better off, almost in proportion to their wealth. But,” says Mr. Booth, “when we bring the death-rate into account this law no longer holds.”

With the poor living under bad conditions in crowded homes the net increase is diminished. To those of us who are hopeful of improvement by eugenics it is pleasing to note that Mr. Booth–somewhat unlike Mr. Kidd in his well-known “Social Evolution”–is optimistic in his conclusion that “on the whole it may fairly be expected that concurrently with a rising standard of health we may see a fall in birth-rate as well as death-rate, and thus have no cause to fear, as the result of better sanitation, that the largest natural increase in population will ever be contributed by the lowest class.” So the heritage of the city may grow not only in quantity but also in quality.

(Professor in the University of Chicago, U.S.A.)

From the standpoint of its applicability to new countries like America, Professor Geddes’ programme is inadequate because of its failure to recognise that a city under these conditions is formed by a rapid and contemporaneous movement of population, and not by the lapse of time. [Page: 136] The first permanent white settler came to Chicago precisely one hundred years ago, and the city has a population at present of about two and a quarter millions. It is here not a question of slow historic development but of the rapid drifting towards a certain point, of a population from all quarters of the globe, and the ethnological standpoint therefore becomes of more importance than the historical.


I am sincerely glad to be able to express myself in substantial agreement with the majority of my critics, only asking them in turn to recognise that this is but the first half of my subject–an outline of civics as in the first place a matter of science, a geographic and historic survey of past conditions, a corresponding census of present ones–here discussed and insisted on as affording the needful base for their demands upon civics as an art, that of effective social service.

In this respect various critics have in fact anticipated large elements of this future portion of my paper, so that in general views, at least, critics and writer are not so far apart as would appear were the preceding pages submitted as a comprehensive outline of the subject, instead of as its scientific introduction merely.

Of criticisms strictly applicable to this paper as it stands, there are really very few. I am confident that the chairman must be quite alone in too modestly applying to his great work that description of London itself, with which the paper (Section A, pp. 104-107) opens, since his volumes offer really our first effective clue to the labyrinth, and his method of intensive and specialised regional survey, the intensest searchlight yet brought to bear upon it.

Taking, however, a concrete point of criticism, such as that of the monumental planning of modern Paris as derived from forest rides, the critic need only walk through any French forest, or even to consult a Baedeker, or other guide-book, with its maps of any historic dwelling and its surroundings, from Chantilly or Fontainebleau to minor ones, to see that this plan, originally devised for the pleasure, success and safety [Page: 137] of the hunt, and later adapted to domination and defence, became next appreciated as affording the finest possible perspectives of the palatially rebuilt chateau. So that it is not at all a fantastic hypothesis, but an obvious and inevitable conclusion that Napoleon’s and Haussman’s plans were not at all invented by them for Paris, but were directly imitated from the familiar landscape architecture of the preceding century, which again was but the simplest development from the spacious forest rides of older hunting nobles, laid out without any thought of the architectural and city developments they were destined in later centuries to determine.

The citizen of Washington had till lately often forgotten that the magnificent perspectives of his city are due to the French landscape-architect (Major L’Enfant) whom Washington imported for the express purpose of laying out his capital; yet it is no less clear that this most magnificent of the New World city plans is derived from Old World forest rides, than that its monumental edifices descend from Renaissance and classic exemplars.

I plead indeed for such studies of the plans of any and every city from the point of view of its natural development. The too purely abstract and subjective sociology of the dwellers of great cities like London would in this way be helped by the facts of their own topographic history, already well known and clearly explained by geographer and historian, towards again feeling with the naturalist that even the modern city is but the most complex evolutionary expression and development of the life of Nature.

This view I take to be indeed a commonplace in France; but I account for its apparent unfamiliarity to English readers from the fact of our scanty forests in this island being left practically wild, our nobles not inhabiting them, but the cultivated pasture and arable regions below–planting trees indeed, “plantations,” but seldom woods, and practically never forests at all. This again brings out the fact that the French nobles, despite our urban associations with regard to them have belonged far more than ours to the social formation and tradition of the hunter–while ours, despite their love of sports, are yet fundamentally squires, i.e., essentially and historically approximating to the peasants of their villages. The bearing of all this upon their respective history will be obvious. Here again we have the origins of the vivid contrast of the English or so-called naturalistic style of landscape-gardening with the more formal French tradition. Yet in a very true sense we see the former to be even more highly artificial than the latter. [Page: 138] The English citizen who may even admit this way of looking at the contrasted city plans of London and Paris may fail, unless he has appreciated the principle here involved, to see why London and Paris houses are so different–the one separate and self-contained, with its door undefended and open upon the street, while the normal Parisian house is a populous, high-piled tenement around a central court, with high _porte cochere_ closed by massive oaken doors and guarded by an always vigilant and often surly _concierge_.

A moment of historical reflection suffices to see that the former is the architecture of a long-settled agricultural place, with its spreading undefended villages, in which each household had its separate dwelling, the other a persistence of the Continental fortified city crowded within its walls.

But beyond this we must see the earlier historic, the simpler geographic origins of the French courtyard house as a defensible farmyard, of which the ample space was needed nightly for defence against wild beasts, if not also wilder men, against whom the _concierge_ is not only the antique porter but the primitive sentinel.

I may seem unduly to labour such points, yet do so advisedly, in order to emphasise and make clearer the essential thesis of this portion of my paper–that every scientific survey involves a geographic and historic exploration of origins, but that of the still unwritten chapter, that the far-reaching forelook, idealistic yet also critical, which is needful to any true and enduring contribution to social service, is prepared for by habitually imaging the course of evolution in the past.

Speaking personally, as one whose leisure and practical life have alike been largely spent in the study and the preservation of ancient buildings, I may say that this has not been solely, or even essentially, from an antiquarian interest in the historic past, but still more on behalf of a practical interest–that of the idealistic, yet economic, utilitarian, because educational and evolutionary, transformation of our old cities–old Edinburgh, old Dunfermline, and the like–from their present sordid unhygienic failure; and therefore industrial and commercial insufficiency, towards a future equalling if not transcending the recorded greatness of the civic past.

It has, therefore, been to lay the broadest possible basis of evolutionary science, of geographic and historic fact, for what would otherwise be open to ridicule as a Utopian hope, that of Civics as Applied Social Art, that I have insisted at such length above upon Civics as Applied Social Science.


_The Times_ (July 20, 1904) in a leading article, said:

In the paper read on Monday at a meeting of the Sociological Society by Professor GEDDES–an abstract of which we print–are contained ideas of practical value to be recommended to the study of ambitious municipalities. This is the age of cities, and all the world is city-building. Almost everywhere is a flow from the country town-ward. China and India may be still, in the main, lands of villages. But the West, Russia perhaps excepted, is more and more peopled by dwellers in cities. In a dim sort of way many persons understand that the time has come when art and skill and foresight should control what so far has been left to chance to work out; that there should be a more orderly conception of civic action; that there is a real art of city-making, and that it behoves this generation to master and practise it. Professor Geddes truly said the land is already full of preparation as to this matter; the beginnings of a concrete art of city-making are visible at various points. But our city rulers are often among the blindest to these considerations; and nowhere probably is to be seen a municipality fully and consistently alive to its duties in this respect. London may be left out of the question. Still a province rather than a city in the strict sense, wanting what, in the view of the early master of political science, was an essential of the true city, that it could “easily be overseen,” with a vast floating population, it will be some time before it can be dealt with as an organic whole. But the rulers of such communities as Manchester and Newcastle and York ought long ago to have realised, much more than has been done, that they are not so much brick and mortar, so much rateable area, so many thousands of people fortuitously brought together. They have all a regional environment of their own which determined their origin and growth. They have all a rich past, the monuments of which, generally to be found in abundance by careful, reverent inquirers, ought to be preserved; a past which ought to be known more or less to all the dwellers therein, and the knowledge of which will make the present more interesting. Even when old buildings have disappeared, ancient roads, pathways, and streets can be traced; place names keep alive much history; and the natural features reveal to the practised eye what must have been the look and condition of a town in past ages. Professor Geddes gives a sketch of what he conceives the vast and ever-growing literature of cities will one day be. Even if the comprehensive monographs which he foreshadows are never [Page: 140] written, it is not surely fanciful to expect that, with education universal, almost every dweller in our old towns will acquire some sort of that feeling with which a member of an ancient family looks upon its ancestral house or lands–will, even without much reading, have some sort of notion of his predecessors and a certain pride in his membership of an ancient community. If he has not the good fortune to be a De Vere, a De Bohun, a Howard, Mowbray or Cavendish, he may perhaps be a citizen of a town which flourished when some of these families were unknown.

Such pride, or, as the lecturer preferred to term it, such “growth of civic consciousness and conscience, the awakening of citizenship towards civic renascence,” will be the best security for a worthy city of the future….

Professor Geddes glanced at the opening civic future, “the remoter and higher issues which a city’s indefinitely long life and correspondingly needed foresight and statesmanship involve,” the possibilities which may be easily realised if only there be true civic pride, foresight, and unflagging pursuit of a reasonable ideal…. It remains to be seen what our cities will become when for some generations the same spirit of pride and reverence shown by old families as to their possessions has presided over all civic changes and developments…. Ruskin somewhere points out the mediaeval love of cities, unwholesome, dirty, and forbidding though they were. He did not teach his generation that that affection might with more reason attach to the modern city if its people knew what it had been and steadily strove to make it better, if there was in every large community patriotism and a polity.

DR. J.H. BRIDGES in _The Positivist Review_ (Sept., 1904), said: Under the title, “Civics, as applied Sociology,” Prof. Geddes read on July 18th a very interesting paper before the Sociological Society. The importance of the subject will be contested by none. The method adopted in handling it, being in many ways original, invites remark …

What is wanted is first a survey of the facts to be dealt with–a regional survey. This point of view has next to be correlated with corresponding practical experience acquired by practical civic life, but “aiming at a larger and more orderly conception of civic action.”…. Students of Comte will not forget his well-known maxim, _Savoir pour prevoir, afin de pourvoir_.

What is to be the area of survey? Prof. Geddes decides that the City may be taken “as the integrate of study.” Whether any modern towns, and, if so, what, may be taken as integrates in the sense which would undoubtedly apply to ancient Athens or to mediaeval Florence, may be questioned; but it is too soon to interrupt our author…. Every one who heard the lecturer must have been fascinated by his picture of a river system which he takes for his unit of study; the high mountain tracts, the pastoral hillsides, the hamlets and villages in the valleys, the market town where the valleys meet, the convergence of the larger valleys into a county town, finally, the great city where the river meets the sea. The lecturer went on to advocate the systematic study of some of the principal river-basins of the world for the purpose of examining the laws which govern the grouping of cities. All would agree that much instruction might be derived from such [Page: 141] a survey, provided two dangers be avoided. One is the exaggeration of the influence of the environment on the social organism, an error into which the Le Play school have sometimes fallen; as when, for instance, it was sought to explain Chinese civilisation by the rice-plant. The other danger, which needs much care and thought to avoid, is the accumulation of such a mass of irrelevant detail as renders (perhaps sometimes it is intended to render) all generalisation impossible. Thinking men are at last beginning to regard the accumulation of memoirs as one of the principal obstacles to scientific progress. On the pretext of “more evidence,” conclusions are adjourned, not merely _sine die_, but _sine spe diei_. Yet so long as man is man, he must, and will, have conclusions; be they final or otherwise.

From the physiography of the city we pass to its history …

In this part of his subject he has, as we all know, many precursors and fellow-workers. The remarkable series, entitled “Historic Towns,” instituted by Prof. Freeman, is known to most. The study of towns was the life and soul of Mr. Green’s historic labours. Eloquent and powerful pictures of the great cities of the world fill the greater part of Mr. Harrison’s well-known volume, “The Meaning of History”; and the student of universal history (a few of these, it may be hoped, are still left) finds them very stimulating and helpful. The special note of Prof. Geddes’ method is that he does not limit himself to the greater cities, but also, and perhaps by preference, deals with the smaller, and with their physical environment; and, above all, that he attempts not merely to observe closely and thoroughly, but to generalise as the result of his observation. In biology, the study of any single organism, however minute and accurate, could reveal no laws (i.e., no general facts) of structure or function. As for instance, many forms of heart must be examined before the laws governing blood-circulation could be revealed; so here. Countless, indeed, are the forms of cities; even limiting our field of observation to those that have grown up in the last century they are numerous enough. Their differences and analogies would doubtless repay analysis, always supposing that we are clear how far the modern town, as contrasted with the mediaeval or Graeco-Roman city, can usefully be treated as “an integrate.” This raises large questions of nation, of groups of nations, finally of Humanity, which cannot here be touched.

Meantime, from the teacher’s standpoint, there can be no question at all, among those who look upon education as something more than a commercial asset, as to the utility of looking on every old town, with the neighbourhood around it, as a condensed record, here and there perfect, elsewhere lamentably blotted, yet still a record, of the history of our race. Historic memories survive in our villages far more widely than is thought. The descendants of the man who found the body of Rufus in the New Forest still live hard by. The builder whom the first William set to build Corfe Castle was Stephen Mowlem; and the Dorsetshire firm of Mowlem still pave London causeways. A poor woman in a remote hamlet, untouched by tourist or guide-book, has shown me the ash-tree under which Monmouth was seized after Sedgemoor; a Suffolk peasant, equally innocent of book-knowledge, has pointed Out “Bloody Mary’s lane,” through which that bugbear of Protestants passed three hundred years before on her way to Framlingham. The abbey immortalised in Carlyle’s “Past and Present,” and still the wonder of Eastern England, is surrounded now by the same villages that Jocelyn tells us of. The town named after St. Alban, with its memories of Cassivellaun and Julius Caesar, of an old Roman city, of the Diocletian persecution, of the great King Offa, founder of the abbey that was to become [Page: 142] at once a school of historical research, and our best epitome of mediaeval architecture–all this, with the monument of the author of the “Novum Organum” crowning the whole–sums up for us sixteen centuries of history.

Professor Geddes for more than twenty years has adopted this method of teaching sociology in the open air; “in the field,” as geologists would say….

This is much more than the study and the description of buildings and places of historical interest. His aim is first to study the way in which a city grows, always having due regard to its physical environment; secondly, by comparing like with like, as a naturalist compares the individuals of a species, or the species of a genus, to throw light on the laws which govern civic development, and thus to help forward and direct civic action.

All this is set forth with greater fulness in the Report which Professor Geddes has been asked to write for the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust. The purpose of the Report (printed, but not yet published) was to suggest the way in which the revenue of the Trust, amounting to L25,000, should be spent for the benefit of this ancient and historic town. The scheme, with its many pictures, real and ideal, of workshops, parks, culture-institutes–physical, artistic, and historical–will deeply interest even those who reject much of it as Utopian. But it is at least a Utopia specially adapted to a given place and time, one in which every feature of landscape and history is made the most of, one in which a beginning can be made at once, leaving room for further developments as occasion may serve. Moreover, it is penetrated through and through with the Republican ideal of bringing the highest truth within the reach of all.

Comte has pointed out, in the fifth chapter of his “General View of Positivism,” and elsewhere, that it is not enough to enunciate sound principles of social renovation unless they can be rendered visible and palpable. “The principal function of art,” he says, “is to construct types on the basis furnished by Science…. However perfectly the first principles of social renovation may be elaborated by thinkers, they will still not be sufficiently definite for the practical results…. But, at the point where Philosophy must always leave a void, Art steps in, and stimulates to practical action…. Hence, in the future, systematic formation of Utopias will become habitual; on the distinct understanding that as in every other branch of art, the ideal shall be kept in subordination to the real.”

Now, the Dunfermline Report is an admirable example of art thus allied with science for social service. It is an ideal picture, strictly adherent to local colour and conditions, of an ancient city prolonging its vitality into the present and future by providing a very high form of training for its citizens, a training not of intellect only, but of the senses, of manual dexterity, of imagination, of Republican sympathy–a training in which “laborious inacquaintance with dead languages,” infusing into the few touched by it a tincture of caste and militarism, gives way to comprehensive study of the evolution of Man, preparing the whole, and not a section merely, of the new generation for social service.

Such a Utopia as this may be looked upon as fulfilling the true social function of Art; standing midway between theory and practice; inspired by thought, and stimulating action. Only the social artist has to look to it that his thoughts be not merely true but adequate, lest he degenerate into a mere decorator. How far will a series of “regional surveys,” like those of [Page: 143] Mr. Booth in London and Mr. Rowntree in York, carry us! Not so far, I fear, as Professor Geddes seems to hope. Cities in our modern life are organs inseparable from a larger whole, the nation; and before the life of cities can be much changed, we have to ask ourselves, What is the national life? What is its ethical and religious standard? What is its practice as to the acquisition and distribution of wealth? And, again, What is to be the intercourse of nations? Is it to be war or peace?

Mr. Carnegie has given half a million for the benefit of a town of 30,000 inhabitants. Magnificent as the donation is, it is not too much; not nearly enough, indeed, for the full realisation of Professor Geddes’ scheme. Still, wisely used, it might accomplish great results. What we have recently sunk in the work of suppressing two free States in South Africa would have made it possible to do for three hundred towns what has been done for Dunfermline. Half of what we are now spending on our army and navy would enable us to endow thirty more of such towns annually.

Mr. ISRAEL ZANGWILL in _To-day_ (Aug. 10, 1904), said: The Sociological Society is forging ahead at American speed; the professors jostle one another, and Geddes treads on the heels of Galton. After “Eugenics,” or the Science of Good Births, comes “Civics,” or the Science of Cities. In the former Mr. Galton was developing an idea which was in the air, and in Wells. In the latter Professor Geddes has struck out a more novel line, and a still more novel nomenclature. Politography, Politogenics, and Eu-Politogenics, likewise Hebraomorphic and Latinomorphic and Eutopia–quite an opposite idea from Utopia–such are some of the additions to the dictionary which the science of Civics carries in its train. They are all excellent words–with the double-barrelled exception–and still more excellent concepts. But I fancy the general idea of them all could be conveyed to the man in the street under the covering of “the human shell.” This shell of ours is the city. It is the protective crust we have built round ourselves. In a smaller sense our house is our shell, but in a larger sense each house is only a lobe of the complex and contorted whole. Geography shapes our shells from without, and the spirit of our particular community shapes it from within. History tells us how it has been shaped in the past, Art tells us how it should be shaped in the future. Professor Geddes, in fact, envisages our civic shell as becomes a brilliant biologist, who also happens to be a man of historic imagination, ethical impulses, and aesthetic perceptions. For the human shell is not merely geometrical and architectural, like those of apian or beaverish communities; it holds and expresses all those differences by which we are exalted above the bee or the beaver. It is coloured with our emotions and ideals, and contorted with all the spirals of our history. And all these manifestations of humanity may be studied as systematically as those of the lower orders of creation, which have till recently monopolised the privilege of pin and label. The old lady who admired the benevolence of Providence in always placing rivers by the side of large towns was only expressing in an exaggerated way the general failure to think of Civics scientifically. The geographers, in whom may be found the bases of the science, have always pointed out that the river system is the essential unit for investigation. From source to sea goes the line of evolution. And yet even the peasant hamlet at the source depends, as [Page: 144] Professor Geddes reminds us, on the hinterland of pasture, forest, and chase; and the hunter is the germ of the soldier and the aristocrat. The whole region contributes to the ultimate city, as the whole river to the ultimate sea. The Professor says, justly enough, that we should try to recover the elemental or naturalist point of view, even for the greatest cities. He sees London as “fundamentally an agglomeration of villages with their surviving patches of common around a mediaeval seaport.” This is accurate vision; but when he discerns “even in the utmost magnificence of Paris, say, its Place de l’Etoile, its spread of boulevards, but the hunter’s tryst by the fallen tree, with its radiating forest rides, each literally straight,” I cannot help suspecting the over-ingenuity of a prolific intellect. The view of London as a growth from embryos, and the view of Paris as the outcome of atavistic instinct, belong to different planes of scientific thinking. That Haussmann in reconstructing Paris was merely an unconscious hunter and woodlander, building as automatically as a bee, is a fantastic hypothesis; since cities, if they are to be built on a plan at all, cannot avoid some unifying geometrical pattern; and there are not very many possibilities…. In the department of Eu-Politogenics we shall be confronted with the problem of consciously overriding what evolution has unconsciously evolved, and building towards a fairer future. No doubt much of our creation will be imitation, and Professor Geddes is particularly suggestive in bidding us, at least, to be aware which of the tangled strands of influence we desire to follow; but a measure of artistic free-will remains. With the development of a corporate conscience we should be able to turn out far more satisfactory shells than many that have blundered into being. “Garden City” is only a particular application of the science of Civics….

Eu-Politogenics concerns itself, however, with more than the mere configuration of our human shell. Its colour and the music it holds are considerations no less important. But they are too important to touch at the fag-end of an article. Professor Geddes must, however, be congratulated on a stimulating paper, and upon his discovery of Eutopia. For Eutopia (unlike Utopia, which is really Ou-topia, or no place) is merely your own place perfected. And the duty of working towards its perfection lies directly upon _you_. “Civics–as applied sociology” comes to show you the way.



Read before the Sociological Society at a Meeting in the School of Economics and Political Science (University of London), Clare Market, W.C., on Monday, January 23rd, 1905, the Rt. Hon. CHARLES BOOTH, F.R.S., in the Chair.


To the previous discussion of this subject[2] the first portion of this present title, “Civics as Concrete Sociology,” would have been more suitable than the second, (that of “Civics as Applied Sociology”) actually used. For its aim was essentially to plead for the concrete survey and study of cities, their observation and interpretation on lines essentially similar to those of the natural sciences. Since Comte’s demonstration of the necessity of the preliminary sciences to social studies, and Spencer’s development of this, still more since the evolution theory has become generally recognised, no one disputes the applicability of biology to [Page: 58] sociology. Many are, indeed, vigorously applying the conceptions of life in evolution, in geographical distribution and environment, in health and disease, to the interpretations of the problems of the times; while with the contemporary rise of eugenics to the first plane of interest, both social and scientific, these lines of thought, bio-social and bio-geographic, must needs be increasingly utilised and developed.

[2] “Sociological Papers,” Vol 1., pp. 103-118.

But Comte and Spencer, with most other biologically-minded sociologists have been more at home among biological generalisations and theories than among the facts they arise from, and hence it is ever needful to maintain and extend a first-hand contact with these. I seek, therefore, to press home the idea that just as the biologist must earn his generalisations through direct and first-hand acquaintance with nature, so now must the sociologist work for his generalisations through a period of kindred observation and analysis, both geographic and historical; his “general laws” thus appearing anew as the abstract of regional facts, after due comparison of these as between region and region.

May not much of the comparative sterility of post-Comtean (or at any rate post-Spencerian) sociology, which is so commonly reproached to us, and to which the difficult formation and slow growth of sociological societies and schools is largely due, be thus explained? Is it not the case that many able and persuasive writers, not only knowing the results, but logically using the generalisations of Comte or Spencer, as of old of Smith or now-a-days of List in the economic field, are yet comparatively sterile of fresh contributions to thought, and still more to action? In fact, must we not apply to much of the literature of recent sociology, just as to traditional economics, the criticism of Comte’s well-known law of three states, and inquire if such writers, while apparently upon the plane of generalised science, are not really in large measure at least arrested upon Comte’s “metaphysical stage,” Mill’s “abstractional” one?

Conversely, the revival of sociological interest in this country at present is obviously very largely derived from fresh and freshening work like that of Mr Francis Galton and of the Right Hon. Charles Booth especially. For here in Mr. Galton’s biometrics and eugenics is a return to nature, a keen scrutiny of human beings, which is really an orderly fruition of that of the same author’s “Art of Travel.” Similarly, Mr. Booth’s “Survey of London” is as truly a return to nature as was Darwin’s Voyage, or his yet more far-reaching studies in his garden and farmyard at home. [Page: 59] Is it not the main support of the subtle theorisings and far-stretched polemic of Prof. Weismann that he can plague his adversaries with the small but literal and concrete mice and hydroids and water fleas with which his theories began? And is it not for a certain lack of such concrete matter of observation that the vast systematisations of M. de Greef, or M. de Roberty, or the original and ingenious readings of Prof. Simon Patten leave us too often unconvinced, even if not sometimes without sufficiently definite understanding of their meaning? The simplest of naturalists must feel that Comte or Spencer, despite the frequently able use of the generalisations of biology, themselves somewhat lacked the first-hand observation of the city and community around them, and suffered thereby; this part of their work obviously not being on a level with the historic interpretations of the one or the psychological productivity of the other. And if, without warlike intent, I may yet strike a conspicuous shield or two within these friendly lists, is it not this one element of concrete observation and illustration which is sometimes lacking to give its full effect to the encyclopaedic learning and the sympathetic insight of one of our recent papers, to the historic and poetic interpretations of another, or to the masterly logic of a third?

Before the polemics of our educationists, the voluminous argumentation and casuistic subtlety of our professors of economics and ethics, yet more before the profound speculations of the epistemologists, the mere naturalist observer can but feel abashed like the truant before his schoolmasters; yet he is also not without a certain deep inward conviction, born of experience, that his outdoor world is yet more real, more vast, and more instructive than is theirs. And this impression becomes strengthened, nay verified and established, when he sees that the initiative thinkers from whom these claim to descend, have had in each and every case no merely academic record, but also a first-hand experience, an impulse and message from life and nature. Hence the contributions of Locke, of Comenius, and of Rousseau. Hence the Physiocrats found economics in peasant life; and thus too Adam Smith renewed their science, with due academic logic, doubtless, but from his experience of Glasgow and Kirkcaldy manufactures and trade. Even the idealist Berkeley owed much of his theory to his iridescent tar-water; while surely the greater ethicists are those who have not only been dialecticians, but moral forces in the world of men.

In such ways, then, I would justify the thesis that civics is no abstract study, but fundamentally a matter of concrete and descriptive sociology–perhaps the greatest field of this. Next, that such orderly study is in line with the preliminary sciences, and with the general doctrine of evolution from simple to complex; and finally with the general inquiry into the influence of geographical conditions on social development. [Page: 60] In short, the student of civics must be first of all an observer of cities; and, if so, of their origins and developments, from the small and simple beginnings of which the tiniest hamlet is but an arrested germ. The productive sociologist should thus be of all investigators a wandering student _par excellence_; in the first place, as far as possible, a literal tourist and traveller–and this although like the homely Gilbert White or the world voyaging Darwin, he may do his best work around his own home.


Hence our civic studies began (vol. 1, p. 105) with the survey of a valley region inhabited by its characteristic types–hunter and shepherd, peasant and fisher–each on his own level, each evolving or degenerating within his own region. Hence the concrete picture of such a typical valley section with its types of occupation cannot be brought too clearly before our minds.[3]

[3] Fig. 1.

What now of the causes of progress or decay? Are not these first of all the qualities and defects inherent in that particular social formation?–though we must also consider how these different types act and react, how they combine with, transform, subjugate, ruin or replace each other in region after region. We thus re-interpret the vicissitudes of history in more general terms, those of the differentiation, progress or degeneracy of each occupational and social type, and the ascending and descending oscillations of these types. In short, these occupational struggles underlie and largely interpret even the conflict of races,