Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History

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Date / time: 31 March - 1 April, All day

University of Cambridge

Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History

Urban History Group 2016

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:

To what extent is the city a ‘site’ for action or an active agent that shapes behaviour and decision-making?

  • Should scholars disrupt the existing typologies by which towns and cities are defined?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?

Issues the conference will address include:

  • 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

The conference will again host its new researchers’ forum and first year PhD sessions. The new researchers’ forum is aimed primarily at those who, at an early stage of a PhD or early career research project, wish to discuss ideas rather than to present findings.  Additionally, there will once again be some limited opportunities for first-year PhD students to present 10 minute introductions to their topics, archival materials, and the specific urban historiography in which their work sits. The intention here is to allow students at the start of their projects to outline their plans and research questions and obtain helpful feedback and suggestions from active and experienced researchers in the field of Urban History.

Bursaries. Students registered for a PhD can obtain a modest bursary on a first come, first served basis to offset expenses associated with conference registration and attendance. Please send an e-mail application to Professor Richard Rodger at and also ask your supervisor to confirm your status as a registered PhD student with an e-mail to the same address. Deadline 4th December 2015. The Urban History Group would like to acknowledge the Economic History Society for its support for these bursaries.

For further details please contact the Conference Organiser:

Dr Rebecca Madgin, Urban Studies, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Glasgow,, Glasgow G12 8QQ
Tel: 0141 330 3847

For New Researchers and First Year PhD presentations

Dr James Greenhalgh, School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln LN6 7TS
Tel: 01522 83 7729



[1] See R. Sweet, Urban History at:

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