Urban History

Research Article

Democracy in Cincinnati: civic virtue and three generations of urban historians

John D. Fairfielda1

a1 Dept of History, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio 45207, USA


The tension between civic virtue and self-interest has been a central theme of three generations of American urban historians. Indeed these historians have played an important role in the struggle to build America's civic culture. Critically examining their cities in light of American ideals, they have embraced the responsibilities of citizenship and kept alive the spirit of civic virtue. This essay examines democracy in Cincinnati through the work of these urban historians and argues that Americans have dispensed with civic virtue at their own peril. The democratization of the republican ideal of citizenship remains the great, unfinished task of American civilization.