A Brief History

Roger D. Simon
Book Cover

PB: $19.95
EAN: 978-1-932304-26-8
Publication: Jul 17

Ebook: $19.95
EAN: 978-1-932304-27-5
Publication: Jul 17

168 pages
6 x 9
3 tables, 30 halftones, 6 maps

A concise and readable overview of the history of Philadelphia from its founding to the early twenty-first century

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


Understanding Philadelphia’s history requires that we understand that nothing is inevitable; history is not made by abstract forces, but by the decisions of real individuals as they conduct their lives. With its insightful analysis and engaging prose , Philadelphia provides an accessible and readable overview of the history of the Quaker City from its founding by William Penn to the deindustrialization and gentrification of the early twenty-first century. Roger Simon asserts that the history of Philadelphia is a story of the efforts to sustain economic prosperity while fulfilling community needs, and the continued tension between those priorities.

Philadelphia devotes considerable attention to the evolving physical development of the city and to the social conditions and class structure of the people. Three dozen maps and illustrations enrich this edition, which has been fully updated and revised to reflect new scholarship on Philadelphia’s role in the post-industrial present and the diverse communities that incorporated women and minorities into the economic and social fabric of the city.

Published in association with the Pennsylvania Historical Association


"Philadelphia: A Brief History covers a long chronological span and maintains a fine focus on a broad array of themes and concerns. Its synthetic ambitions are great, and Simon succeeds in fulfilling them to an impressive degree. In particular, the book’s method of balancing and combining economic, political, civic, social, and built environment histories highlights their influences on one another and Philadelphia's broad historical sweep. Philadelphia also does a stellar job of distilling complex scholarly treatments of various subjects into a reader-friendly style. This revised and updated edition is a wonderful achievement."
Peter Siskind, Assistant Professor and Chair of Historical and Political Studies at Arcadia University

"It fills a profound need for a Philadelphia history of this kind, and it’s likely to be the go-to brief history for this generation.... Simon’s writing is pellucidly clear, and the text is graced by several well-chosen illustrations and photographs, as well as a few instructive population tables at the end of the book."
George Hunka

"As a narrative, Professor Simon’s work here is invaluable. The writing is done well and the footnotes are an asset for anyone studying or teaching Pennsylvania history."
— H-Net's H-Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Editors’ Foreword, by Allen Dieterich-Ward and Beverly C. Tomek



1. Establishing a Community/Building an Economy: Beginnings to 1800
2. Community Good/Manufacturing City: 1800–1865
3. Industry Triumphant/Civic Failure: 1865–1930
4. Economic Decline/Community Turmoil: 1930–1980
5. Struggling toward the Postindustrial City: 1980–2016

Appendix: Tables

About the Author(s)

Roger D. Simon is a Professor of History at Lehigh University. He is the author of The City-Building Process: Housing and Services in New Milwaukee Neighborhoods, 1880-1910 and co-author of Lives of Their Own: Blacks, Italians and Poles in Pittsburgh, 1900-1960.


In the Series

  • Pennsylvania History edited by Allen Dieterich-Ward and David Witwer

    The Pennsylvania History series, edited by Allen Dieterich-Ward and David Witwer, designed to make high-quality scholarship accessible for students, advances the mission of the Pennsylvania Historical Association by engaging with key social, political, and cultural issues in the history of the state and region.