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Special issue - Urban History

Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society / Frank Mort

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Review Date: 01 October 2010

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.


City and Cosmos: the Medieval World in Urban Form / Keith Lilley

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Review Date: 30 April 2010

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.


Walls of Algiers. Narratives of the City Through Text and Image / eds. Zeynep Çelik, Frances Terpak, Julia Clancy-Smith

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Review Date: 28 February 2010

This is a beautifully illustrated book of serious scholarship and the three editors and the other contributing authors are to be congratulated.


Invented Edens: Techno-cities of the Twentieth Century / Arthur P. Molella, Robert H. Kargon

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


The London Guildhall: an Archaeological History of a Neighbourhood from Early Medieval to Modern Times / Tony Dyson, Nick Holder, Isca Howell, David Bowsher

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


Lost Londons: Change, Crime and Control in the Capital City 1550-1660 / Paul Griffiths

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space, 1840-1930 / Richard Dennis

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


The Gangs of Manchester: The Story of the Scuttlers, Britain’s First Youth Cult / Andrew Davies

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


African or American? Black Identity in New York City, 1784-1861 / Leslie Alexander

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

In March 2008, candidate Barack Obama made a speech in Philadelphia articulating his own views on race in the politics of the presidential campaign. In it, he stated that ‘at various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough”.’(1) Clearly, issues of political and racial identity for African Americans are still both highly relevant and highly contentious today.


Guilty Money: The City of London in Victorian and Edwardian Culture, 1815–1914 / Ranald Michie

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Review Date: 30 June 2009

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.


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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.

Special issues

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