[HIST 150] Worlds of Stone: The City in Modern European History
Taking a broad, thematic approach, this class introduces students to the field of modern European urban history. Throughout the semester, we will ask about how the city developed into a symbol of modernity, an environment where both the positive and the negative aspects of an imagined future could be observed in the present.
First, the class will examine the material changes that the city underwent in the modern age. In that context, we will discuss urban growth, and how it was connected to industrialization; and we will study the transformation of European cities through city planning, including the economic, military, and aesthetic ideas underlying transformative projects such as Baron Haussmann’s re-building of Paris in the nineteenth century.
Second, the class will look at the city as a space of conflict. We are going to analyze revolutionary movements, tensions between classes and different ethnic groups, as well as the creation of police forces as a government attempt to control urban space.
Third, the connections of European cities to a wider geographic environment will be analyzed. Here we will talk about cities as nodes in networks of communication and trade, and about cities as centers of colonial empires.
A final, fourth question to be asked is how the city was used to produce collective meanings and cultural interpretations. We will study maps to find out about changing notions of urban geography, and we will talk about monumental sites of memory in cities. We are also going to analyze paintings of cities, watch videos, and look at literary and theoretical writings about the European metropolis.
At the end of the semester, students will produce research papers providing their own interpretations of the city in the modern age.