2016 Urban History Group Conference: Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History, 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.
    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. These new researchers’ papers need not be related to the main conference theme, but should follow the same submission process as outlined above. 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.
    If you wish to be considered for the new researchers’ forum or for the first-year PhD sessions, please indicate this on your submission.
    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 richard.rodger@ed.ac.uk 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 and to submit your abstract 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
    [2] Journal of Urban History, 41:4, July 2015