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Faculty of Science School Of Geography & Earth Sciences
Faculty of Science

School Of Geography & Earth Sciences

Richard Harris
Richard Harris

Contact Info

Professor
General Science Building, Rm 216
(905) 525-9140 ext. 27216
(905) 546-0463
...

Richard Harris is currently on research leave.

Summary

Housing; Suburban development; Urban social geography; Urban historical geography; Canadian and US cities in the twentieth century; Urban development in the British colonies.

I am interested in how the built environment has reflected and shaped our lives, with particular reference to dwellings and residential environments. The influence of the built environment often becomes apparent, and also changes, over long periods of time, and I have found it fruitful to undertake historical research as well as studies of the present. (I am an Associate of the Department of History at McMaster.) Dwellings frame much of our daily life and offer a valuable prism through which to study social, cultural, and economic change.

I have used housing as a prism in two contexts:

  1. The history of housing, residential environments, and especially suburbs in North America in the twentieth century. By studying the linkages between production and consumption of these environments it is possible to ground, and extend, recent debates about the cultural construction of the economy, and about class and gender differences in the meaning of consumption. Supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, my main writing project at present (2006-7) is a history of the rise of owner-building in North America and Australia, 1945-1960, and of how it was transformated by building supply dealers into Do-It-Yourself. Related research by my graduate students concerns the history of the National Building Code in Canada (Jay Parsons, PhD candidate, Geography), the way the choice of housing relates to other consumer goods (Aman Gill, PhD candidate, Geography), a comparative history of urban renewal in Hamilton, Ontario, and Buffalo, NY (Peigi Rockwell, PhD candidate, History), and the history of housing cooperatives in Canada (Ryan George, PhD candidate, History).

    Painting of c.1911 small home on street
    Painting of c.1911 small home on street
    Black-and-white photo of Montreal shack
    Black-and-white photo of Montreal shack
    Owner-built home in Stoney Creek, Ontario
    Owner-built home in Stoney Creek, Ontario

    Throughout the twentieth century, many families built their own homes. As this watercolour painting (c.1911) shows, many people began small and then improved their homes as finances permitted. Owner-building was common for a time after 1945. Sometimes, as in this black-and-white photo of Montreal, published in Macleans magazine, people started (and sometimes ended) with shacks. Usually, however, building suppliers provided plans, advice, and credit so that families erected the same types of dwellings as professional builders, as seen in this owner-built home in Stoney Creek, Ontario."

  2. The emergence and evolution of housing policy in the British colonies in the late colonial period, 1929-independence. Housing policy was intimately bound up with more general policies with respect to urbanisation and segregation, and offers an effective way of grounding postcolonial and related theories. I am especially interested in the West Indies, West and East Africa, and Singapore, with the circulation of ideas among these colonies, and also between the colonies and the Colonial Office in London. Students have recently completed studies of Trinidad, Ghana, and Kenya. A doctoral student (Alison Hay, Geography) is undertaking research on Singapore.

    Nairobi, Kenya in the 1940
    Nairobi, Kenya in the 1940
    Map: neighbourhood layout
    Map: neighbourhood layout

    "Between the 1930s and the 1950s, British colonial governments began to build housing for the indigenous populations. Increasingly, as can be seen here in Nairobi, Kenya in the 1940s, housing was built for families and not just for single men. House designs and neighbourhood layouts were often hybrids of British and local practices."

Courses

Media

Publications

Click Here for Full Publication List

Richard Harris. 2015. International Policy for Urban Housing Markets in the Global South since 1945, in Faranak Miraftab and Neema Kudva eds. Cities of the Global South . New York: Routledge, 122-123.

Richard Harris. 2015. La questione du terrain suburbaine (with Ute Lehrer and Robin Bloch) Pole Sud 42 (2015): 63-85.

Richard Harris . 2014. Using Toronto to explore three suburban stereotypes Environment and Planning A DOI: 10.1068/a46298 Advance online publication, 2014 http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=a46298

Richard Harris. 2014. Urban Land Markets: A Southern Exposure, in Susan Parnell and Sophie Oldfield, eds., From the South. A Cities Handbook New York: Routledge. 109-121

Richard Harris. 2014. Introduction (with Robert Lewis) to E.P. Richards, Report by Request of the Trust on the Condition, Improvement and Town Planning of the City of Calcutta and Contiguous Areas (Ware, Herts, 1914), vii-xxi. Reprinted with an introduction. New York: Routledge

Richard Harris. 2014. The Imprint of the Owner-Builder on American Suburbs. In Michael Conzen and Peter Larkham, eds., Shapers of the Urban Form. Explorations in Morphological Agency . London: Routledge, 193-216.

Richard Harris. 2012. Building a Market. The Rise of the Home Improvement industry, 1914-1960 Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Richard Harris. 2004. Creeping Conformity How Canada became Suburban, 1900-1960 . Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Richard Harris and Peter Larkham, eds. 1999. Changing Suburbs. Foundation, Form and Function, edited, with Peter Larkham. London: E and FN Spon.

Richard Harris. 1996. Unplanned Suburbs. Toronto's American Tragedy, 1900-1950 . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Richard Harris. 2015. Using Toronto to explore three suburban stereotypes Environment and Planning A (forthcoming)

Richard Harris. 2014. International Policy for Urban Housing Markets in the Global South since 1945, in Faranak Miraftab and Neema Kudva eds. Cities of the Global South. New York: Routledge.

Richard Harris. 2014. Urban Land Markets: A Southern Exposure, in Susan Parnell and Sophie Oldfield, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Cities of the Global South. New York: Routledge.

Richard Harris . 2013. The Rise of Filtering Down. The American Housing Market Transformed, 1918-1929. Social Science History 37, 4: 515-549.

Richard Harris and Robert Lewis. 2012. Numbers didn't count. The streets of colonial Bombay and Calcutta Urban History 39, 4: 639-658.

Richard Harris . 2010. Meaningful Types in a World of Suburbs. In Mark Clapson and Ray Hutchinson, eds, Suburbanisation in a Global Society. Research in Urban Sociology No.10. Bingley: Emerald Group.

Richard Harris . 2009. The Birth of the Housing Consumer in the United States, 1918-1960. International Journal of Consumer Studies 33: 525-532.

Richard Harris. 2008. Development and Hybridity Made Concrete in the Colonies Environment and Planning A. 40: 15-36

McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

School of Geography and Earth Sciences
McMaster University

General Sciences Building, Room 206
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4K1

Contact Information

Office Hours:
8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Telephone Inquiries:
+1 (905) 525-9140 ext.24535
Email Inquiries:
sges@mcmaster.ca

McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

School of Geography and Earth Sciences
McMaster University

General Sciences Building, Room 206
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4K1

Contact Information

Office Hours:
8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Telephone Inquiries:
(905) 525-9140 ext. 24535
Email Inquiries:
sges@mcmaster.ca