Special issue - Urban History
This special issue, featuring reviews of recent books and resources across the field of urban history, was commissioned to coincide with the 78th Anglo-American Conference of Historians on the theme of Cities.
Although there is a long tradition of historical writing, based upon the town or city as the principal unit, which goes back to classical antiquity, urban history did not emerge as a separate discipline in Britain until the 1960s. The growing interest of historians, under the influence of the social sciences, in general patterns, moved approaches to cities away from being studies of particular places, and increasing sought to site them in wider systems. An interdisciplinary approach drawing on economics, sociology and geography emerged for the study of cities after 1750, whilst historians of earlier periods tended to use more traditional methods. Both, however, have been influenced by the cultural and linguistic turn of recent decades, which has tended to reduce the confidence of urban historians in purely quantitative approaches to the city.
A lengthy article on urban history is available on the IHR's Making History website.
In this book, Frank Mort, who holds a Chair in Cultural Histories at the University of Manchester, continues the work begun in Cultures of Consumption: Commerce, Masculinities and Social Space in Late Twentieth-Century Britain and in Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1830.(1) This volume presents a cultural history of Londo
Most medievalists would be able to cite an example of the close parallels in symbolic thinking about the city and world in the Middle Ages, whether along the lines of ideas of Rome as caput mundi or Augustine’s Two cities.
This is a beautifully illustrated book of serious scholarship and the three editors and the other contributing authors are to be congratulated.
In the words of its author, this engaging book ‘tells of the shadows of objects and of images in the brain and, as such, of the only realities that cannot entirely escape from appropriation’ (p. ix). The object in question is Florence, understood both as a material place and as a mythical construction.
This text book aims to cover 150 years of European history from a perspective which desperately needs coverage: the perspective of the city.
Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World provides a nuanced investigation into cities with varying degrees of connection to the Portuguese empire during the 16th through the 18th centuries.
This work of literary criticism is inevitably aimed more at people working in French departments than at social or intellectual historians. Despite the interdisciplinary potential of the subject-matter, there is little here of direct interest to the latter, hence this review is addressed primarily to the former.
Appearing in the suitably Victorian-sounding imprint of Pickering and Chatto, as a volume in its ‘Financial History’ series, the financial historian Ranald C. Michie’s Guilty Money ought to be timely work, given its subject matter.
In March 2008, candidate Barack Obama made a speech in Philadelphia articulating his own views on race in the politics of the presidential campaign.
The Gangs of Manchester is a welcome and timely contribution to the growing literature on the history of youth. Davies’ book is a study of the rise and fall of the ‘scuttler’ street fighting gangs of Manchester from the mid to late 19th century. It paints a powerful picture of the harsh urban environment in which the young men and women who joined these gangs lived and worked.
Richard Dennis’ engaging book is about building bridges, both literal and metaphorical. It begins with a study of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Tower Bridge in London and the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, using them as a means of highlighting the eclectic methodologies and theoretical approaches to be applied throughout the work.
London does not lack histories, or historians, and the early modern metropolis in particular has been the subject of myriad scholarly works. Paul Griffiths focuses on a period that saw London change rapidly, its population exploding out of the traditional Walls and increasingly spilling into the suburbs surrounding the city.
The heart of City Government from its establishment in the 12th century until the present-day, the Guildhall of the City of London remains perhaps our best link with the medieval city. This extensive history is, for the first time, considered in its entirety in this volume, an archaeological history of its site from the earliest post-Roman occupation until the present day.
The 20th century saw the birth of the professional disciplines of urban and regional planning, and the associated construction of myriad New Towns. Often, the construction of these new urban centres was central to the expression, in urban form, of wider ideological and socio-political movements.