Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History – 31 March/1 April 2016

 Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History

 Urban History Group 2016

University of Cambridge, 31 March – 1 April

As the devolution of powers to cities gains political momentum in the UK it brings into sharper focus the roles of towns and cities in previous times and cultures. Since 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the first conference devoted to urban history (Leicester 1966) it provides the Urban History Group Annual Conference an opportunity to: a) clarify the general scope and methods of urban history, and b) to examine the potential for comparative research – both issues addressed in 1966.[1]

With the political developments in Britain, and a special issue of the Journal of Urban History[2] in the USA, it is thus timely to question the historical role of the city.

The central themes of the 2016 conference are:

  1. To what extent is the city a ‘site’ for action or an active agent that shapes behaviour and decision-making?
  2. Should scholars disrupt the existing typologies by which towns and cities are defined?
  3. Do scholars from other fields, including but not limited to, economic, social, cultural history, historical geography and/or urban studies, conceptualise the role of the city differently within their research, and how can this inform a deeper understanding of urban development?
  4. By what means, if at all, has the non-western city played a role in redefining our conceptual and empirical understanding of urban historical processes?
  5. In what ways do the ideas of key authors such as Lewis Mumford, Henri Lefebvre, Jane Jacobs, Manuel Castells, Fernand Braudel and others remain relevant to the study of urban history?

These issues are located across time and space and the conference organisers welcome papers from Britain, Europe and the wider world from 1600-2016. The conference committee invites proposals for individual papers as well as for panel sessions of up to 3 papers. Sessions that seek to draw comparisons across one or more countries or periods, or open up new vistas for original research, are particularly encouraged.

Issues to be considered can include but are not limited to:

  • Representations of the city
  • Comparative and transnational methodologies
  • Inter-disciplinary research on the city
  • The history and heritage of the city
  • Urban governance and relationships between city and region
  • Emerging methodologies for researching the city
  • The urban biography in relation to urban theory

 Abstracts of up to 300 words, including a paper or panel title, name, affiliation and contact details should be submitted to the conference organiser and should indicate clearly how the content of the paper addresses the conference themes outlined above. Those wishing to propose sessions should provide a brief statement that identifies the ways in which the session will address the conference theme, a list of speakers, and abstracts. The final deadline for proposals for sessions and papers is 2 October 2015.

For further details please contact the Conference Organiser:

Dr Rebecca Madgin

[1] See R. Sweet, Urban History at

[2] Journal of Urban History, 41:4, July 2015

About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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