European Cities and Towns: 400-2000

European Cities and Towns: 400-2000

European Cities and Towns: 400-2000

European Cities and Towns: 400-2000


Since the Middle Ages Europe has been one of the most urbanized continents on the planet and Europe's cities have firmly stamped their imprint on the continent's economic, social, political, and cultural life.

This study of European cities and towns from the fall of the Roman Empire to the present day looks both at regional trends from across Europe and also at the widely differing fortunes of individual communities on the roller coaster of European urbanization. Taking a wide-angled view of the continent that embraces northern and eastern Europe as well as the city systems of the Mediterranean and western Europe, it addresses important debates ranging from the nature of urban survival in the post-Roman era to the position of the European city in a globalizing world.

The book is divided into three parts, dealing with the middle ages, the early modern period, and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - with each part containing chapters on urban trends, the urban economy, social developments, cultural life and landscape, and governance. Throughout, the book addresses key questions such as the role of migration, including that of women and ethnic minorities; the functioning of competition and emulation between cities, as well as issues of inter-urban cooperation; the different ways civic leaders have sought to promote urban identity and visibility; the significance of urban autonomy in enabling cities to protect their interests against the state; and not least why European cities and towns over the period have been such pressure cookers for new ideas and creativity, whether economic, political, or cultural.


The idea for this book came from Peter Burke over a friendly lunch at Cambridge in the late 1990s, and I am grateful to Peter for his suggestion. But the gestation and orientation of this survey started rather earlier: in the collaboration with Peter Burke, Paul Slack, Penelope Corfield and others in the early 1970s in an Open University course on urban history which led to my first attempt to sketch out European trends in The Early Modern Town (1976); in my involvement with the Pre-Modern Towns Group (along with Peter Borsay, Caroline Barron and others) and the British Urban History Group (led by Jim Dyos and David Reeder) in the 1970s and 1980s when we explored together a widening arc of new themes and periods in urban history; and in my work at the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, where I was director between 1985 and 1999. Particularly valuable at that time was the cooperation with Herman Diederiks, Herman van der Wee, Walter Prevenier, Anngret Simms, Toshio Sakata, Adriaan Verhulst, and Bernard Lepetit which led to numerous conferences and publications on many aspects of European urban history. In the 1980s the first international workshops on urban history were held at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris under the splendid leadership of Maurice Aymard; and 1989 saw the creation of the European Association for Urban History, whose biennial conferences, attended by many hundreds of scholars from all parts of Europe and beyond, provide an exciting forum for the latest research on many aspects of European urban history.

This book is an attempt to summarize and provide a structure and argument for much of the comparative and interdisciplinary research on the European city since the Middle Ages that has appeared in recent decades. It examines urbanization trends and types of town as well as key economic, social, political, and cultural developments in European cities between about 400 and 2000. For strategic reasons the book is divided into three conventional parts: the first up to the end of the Middle Ages . . .

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