Posts Tagged ‘urban’

Metropolitan History seminar
23 November 2011
Urbanising China in war and peace, Wuxi 1911-1945
Toby Lincoln (Centre for Urban History, Leicester)

Wuxi (Wikipedia)


Toby Lincoln examines Wuxi at the beginning of the twentieth century asking questions of its urban development, its composition as a city, and the effect of Japanese occupation in the 1930s.  Wuxi is an urban region in China.  Lincoln argues that Wuxi underwent a large expansion led by a modern capitalist drive, migration, and demonstration of state political power.  The occupation of the city by the Japanese led to a rebuilding of Wuxi that reflects surprising continuity and in so doing reveals the limits of Japanese occupation in the region.

Lincoln tells us that urbanisation is a long-term trend in China and that the interconnection between urban and rural landscapes demonstrates variances in lifestyle and practices.  Sometimes, urbanisation is seen in China as the effect of a decadent foreign imposition on traditional Chinese lifestyles whilst in other occasions it is viewed as Chinese progression.  Lincoln’s focus is on the overlapping geographies of Wuxi.  These are used as a way into the subject – focused on spatial understandings of flexible borders and connections between spaces.

 To listen to this podcast click here.


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British History in the Long 18th Century
Chancery Lane: politics, space and the built environment, c. 1760-1815
Francis Boorman (IHR)
19 October 2011


Chancery Lane

Chancery Lane (Wikipedia)

Sandwiched between the west and east ends of London, Chancery Lane was a focus point in England’s capital city and therefore an ideal place for lawyers to set up shop.  It is hard to imagine what life would have been like there in the eighteenth century.  The roads were tight and dangerous and represented an old, much smaller sized London than what had grown up around it over the last 100 years or so.  According to Francis Boorman the clash of classes was extremely evident here, with robberies common in its narrow streets as the rich fell foul to the poor, and as a place where women regularly prostituted themselves.  There were also many pubs and coffee houses in the district which can only have intensified matters.  With a distinct lack of street lighting this was a seedy place to hang around, but it was also a centre of law and order.

This paper focuses on the politics of public space in London and particularly its importance to radicals and conservatives in the long eighteenth-century.  Francis Boorman argues that Chancery Lane’s geographical and topographical location in London and its specific importance for the legal profession were crucial to its formation as a built environment.  Geographically Chancery Lane is located right in the middle of the west and east sides of London and fell under various jurisdictions.  Topographically Chancery Lane had narrow but busy streets causing congestion problems and encouraging high levels of accidents.

In addition Chancery Lane was viewed as the physical manifestation for the reputation of the lawyers who worked there.  For example building works by lawyers gave manifest significant criticism of the legal profession from the public.  People felt that lawyers were improving their place of work and getting rich off of other people’s money.  In the long eighteenth-century there was a very real perception that lawyers were dishonest, greedy, and untrustworthy.

Boorman explains all these issues in clear detail to show why the expansion and improvement of the road took so long to be achieved.  Even despite the money and workforce available through the Westminster Paving Committee and numerous complaints that the Lane was dangerous (especially near Fleet Street) nothing happened.  The main reasons for this was arguments between the local residents and the lawyers on who should pay as well as the difficulty of convincing the various jurisdictions under which Chancery Lane fell that they should act in unison.

To listen to this podcast click here.    

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Today we present the final episode from the 2009 Anglo-American conference.  It is a timely wrapping up from that conference as tomorrow the IHR engages the topic of Ancients and Moderns at this year’s Anglo-American.  It should be fun!  We have papers looking at a wide range of classical history and later reflections and uses of that past.    There will also be a publishers fair that is free and available to everyone, so if you are not attending the actual conference but are in the Bloomsbury area of London, please do pop over to have a look.  Publishers will be offering substantial discounts on a variety of books so pick up a bargain!  Anyway, onto our final abstract from 2009!  
Anglo-American conference 2009: Cities
Women and the city: investment, banking and the spread of women’s financial activity in early eighteenth-century England
Anne Laurence (Open University)

Abstract: The tale of the financial revolution in early eighteenth-century England is usually told in terms of the development of financial institutions following the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694 and the expansion of the stock market, especially during the period of the South Sea Bubble of 1720. But much of this would have been impossible without changes – both through legislation and in the courts – that made the transfer of funds between individuals, banks and joint stock companies easier and more secure. These changes made it possible for private individuals, both men and women, to start to use banks and the stock market without being part of the commercial elite of the City of London. It is in this period that the ‘city’ ceased to be a geographical location where banking and stock market activity took place and became a virtual space in which the new financial markets operated.

In particular, this transformation affected women. For the most part they had been outside the commercial and mercantile networks that had characterised the limited financial markets that existed before 1694. Acts of Parliament of 1698 and 1704 and the development of the use of letters of attorney allowed money to be transferred more securely and stock to be bought and sold without the owner visiting the company offices in person. While newspapers during the South Sea Bubble wrote of the visibility of women in ’Change Alley, what was significant in reality was the participation in the market, often for the first time, of women living in the provinces or who visited London only occasionally.

This paper will explore the impact of the new ‘virtual City’ on women’s finances and consider the extent to which their experience differed from that of men.

To listen to this podcast click here.

To listen to the other podcasts from the Anglo-American conference 2009 on Cities click here.

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Anglo-American conference 2009: Cities
Swati Chattopadhyay (University of Southern California Santa Barbara)
Cities and peripheries

When we talk about cities and urban spaces we are in the habit of using a specific language that we generally believe to provide acceptable descriptions.  However, Swati Chattopadhyay believes that the words we use are not specific enough and that our descriptions presuppose a certain view of history and the relationship between natural and fabricated reality.  There are two examples used as demonstration.  The first is the increase in slums and the difficulties that our language has in identifying the meaning of these places and their connections with cities and rural locations.  The second is a focus on rivers, especially in India, and how their changes in shape, size and form over time has an impact on our attempts to control land by making it into landscape.  Where are the boundaries of a city?  Is it where maps tell us it is, or is it more fluent than that?  These are basic questions that Chattopadhyay asks or our usual interpretations of urban spaces.  

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Anglo-American conference 2009
What is a City? The English experience
John Beckett (Centre for Local History, IHR)
2 July 2009

Abstract: This paper will present an overview, concluding that England has two leagues of cities: a largely medieval league of what are now small cathedral towns; and a post-Victorian league which now includes more or less all the great ‘towns’. The paper explains how this came about, and asks what it means for our understanding of the English city.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Metropolitan History
26 October 2011
Joseph de Sapio (Oxford)
Worse than Cimmerian Darkness: fog and the representation of Victorian London

What do tourists say about London in the nineteenth century?  Representations of the London fog are common in the nineteenth century especially amongst visitors to the city.  This helps us to explore the relationship between the citizen/visitor and the city itself.  Joseph de Sapio looks at how the fog challenged the visual understanding of the city; transforming the urban landscape into something other worldly.  De Sapio goes as far as to suggest that the fog inverted the urban modernity of the landscape creating a distortion of the modern system.  In one respect the fog became part of London’s character and when serious attempts were made to reduce the fog a feeling of loss comes through in the literature.  A certain ‘romance’ was held for the fog entirely separated from its presence as a nuisance and health threat.  The practical difficulties are, however, not ignored in the paper – deep fog could obscure landmarks making it very hard to work out where you were going in the city, especially if you were a visitor.  Joseph de Sapio describes Victorian London in terms of character but also in terms of the visual and of movement within the urban setting.

To listen to this podcast click here. 

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British History in the Long 18th Century
22 June 2011
Bob Harris (Worcester College, Oxford)
Scottish townscapes and ‘improvement’ in the age of enlightenment c. 1720-1820

Castle Street, Dundee (19th century)

Did the enlightenment reach provincial Scottish towns in the Georgian period?  What, if any, influence did it have on urban improvement, development and transformation of urban landscapes, particularly in the period between 1720 and 1820?  Bob Harris tells us that there was uneven change and lack of central funding for improvement projects but that nonetheless there were many changes made to the infrastructure, design and nature of Scottish towns.  Harris looks at particular to the towns that developed the most at the turn of the eighteenth century (Montrose, Dumfries, Dundee, and Perth) to examine improvements to street lighting, pavements, and houses.  However, his remit is wider with many other towns and schemes specific to them mentioned.  The eighteenth century represents a moment in time when the urban landscape was properly developing alongside enforcement in the form of police and statutes, regulation and codifying of spaces and buildings as well as tighter controls developed over what could and could not be done in an area.  To what extent this transformation was related to enlightenment thought is something that Harris tackles head-on near the end of his paper.  Were urban improvements part of an enlightenment plan or conceived off through enlightenment ideals?  Harris thinks partially, but the picture is far from clear or simple. 

 Click here to listen to this podcast

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