Richard Harris is currently on research leave.
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:
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 streetBlack-and-white photo of Montreal shackOwner-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."
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 1940Map: 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."
- CBC News January 2016
- Hamilton Spectator, October 2015
- Hamilton Spectator, September 2015
- Hamilton Spectator, July 2015
- Daily News, June 2015
- Hamilton CHCH Tv, November 2014
- Hamilton Spectator, January 2014
- Globe and Mail January 2014
- Globe and Mail, January, 2014
- Daily News, September 2013
- CBC News, September 2013
- University of Chicago Press 2012
- Daily News Article Spetember 16, 2010
- Daily News Article March 21, 2006
- Daily News Article, July 13,2006
- Daily News Article, Dec 22, 2006
- CITY Breakfast TV, Creeping Conformity
(.wmv) August 2005
- CHTV, Creeping Conformity
(.wmv) August 2005
- TVO, Creeping Conformity, (.wmv) August 2005