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New Directions in British Urban History

09/12/2019 - 09/13/2019

This conference will bring together leading scholars working in the field of modern British urban and planning history. Bridging this sub-field in the UK and in the US, this conference has three main objectives.

The first is to provide a forum for discussing the current flurry of written work on British urban life (seven of the participants have recent or forthcoming monographs on twentieth-century British urban history). Our long term goal is to produce a special issue in “Planning Perspectives” on this historiographical turn; the conference will be the key launching pad for this scholarly work.

The second is to provide junior scholars (at the graduate and postdoctoral level) with international mentoring links, guaranteeing the robustness of this field over the next decade. This will be achieved through roundtable conversations rather than traditional papers.

The final objective is to connect the British field to wider contexts in European and transnational urban history. This will be achieved by inviting leading scholars in European urban history (Rosemary Wakeman) and international planning history (Christopher Klemek) to provide remarks. These objectives reflect the direction of the seminar in recent years, where there has been a cluster of research presentations on the British built environment, the genealogies of neoliberalism, the rule of experts in postwar life; all of these feed into the methods and themes currently animating British urban history. In addition, we are at a moment when seminar-affiliated faculty, students, and alums (Mass, Ortolano, Wetherell, Subramanian, and Gorton) are all working on specifically British urban history projects. The conference will establish Columbia as a key site for the study of British urban history not just in the US, but internationally.

In addition, the structure of the seminar has moved towards a self-consciously interdisciplinary and internationalist ethos, with discussants coming from other disciplines and other national fields. The proposed conference will continue this work, connecting scholars in history, planning, and architecture.


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Sarah Mass