City Limits?: The European City 1400-1900

September 30 – October 2, 2004

Conference Abstracts



Arab, Ronda.  “Commercial Exchange and London City Comedy: The Shopkeeper’s Compromised Masculinity”


On the London stage, early seventeenth-century city comedies satirized the urban culture of commerce and leisure activities that flourished around them.  While courtiers and other gentlemen were mocked as effeminate for excessive consumption and over-refinement, tradesmen and shopkeepers faced other threats to their manliness as a consequence of their engagement in the increasingly material world, most specifically from the dictates of the market that required submissive and humble manners to even the most irritating and inferior of customers.  In Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton’s The Honest Whore the character of Candido, a master linen draper, is so mild-tempered, patient and submissive to the laws of the market that he infuriates his wife, exasperates his servants, and is gulled by the city’s courier pranksters.


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Bailey, Melanie.  “French Nationalism and post-1848 Parisian Values”


Parisians both suffered and enjoyed the changes that the revolution of 1848 wrought in their city.  Opera and science commentators for the city’s newspapers used their columns to interpret their experiences as citizens of ‘their’ city and France.  Through their articles, they reflected and articulated perspectives about the traditions that defined them and the hopes that ought to inspire them.  My paper will analyze the relationship between the individual, the city in which he lived, and the nation of which he was a citizen in the context of the mid-19th century upheavals in France.



Berg, Keri.  “Off the Map: Mobility and the Reading of Paris, 1830-1848”


From 1830-1848, Paris witnessed an increase in population, spurred on by a wave of urban migration.  Editors capitalized on the changing cityscape, launching les physiologies: short, illustrated texts designed as social guides to the new city and its inhabitants.  Les physiologies mapping of Paris consisted of localizing various social figures within the city, linking subject and habitat.  Yet for Honoré de Balzac, this correlation ignored the prospect of mobility.  Indeed, with the advent of urban development and the democratization of society, Parisians could now move from one part of the city and, in theory, from one class to another.  The notion of mobility thus problematizes the mapping of Paris, as citizens, from the grocer to the mid-wife, can easily change geographical as well as social coordinates.  Physical mobility then becomes a metaphor for social advancement, testing the limits of both les physiologies’ spatial and social map.


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Blackstone, Mary.  “Pageantry and Community in Early Modern Norwich


The Tudor regimes of sixteenth century England restructured the country’s power base by incorporating an unprecedented number of urban centres.  Newly incorporated and long established communities like the city of Norwich invested in pageantry, ceremony, architectural projects, historical and geographical documentation and systems of education, correction and punishment – all of which were intended to underscore and enhance their increasing power and status.  Some of the most ‘performative’ of these manifestations of power, however – the pageants and the players – provided a contested site for negotiating less than predictable and sometimes volatile interpretations of key concepts of “community,” “common wealth” and the emerging English nation-state.



Candelaria, Matthew.  “The Victorian Cockroach”


This paper first analyzes the changing attitudes toward the city as an unnatural space free from the contamination of animals during the Victorian period, then shows how these intersected with new attitudes toward domesticity typified by the rise of housekeeping manuals.  Then the paper looks briefly at the origins of entomology as a hobby dedicated to collecting exotic specimens, which prejudiced its results away from common insects, before showing the shift away from these origins during the mid-nineteenth century.  Finally, the paper shows how this shift in focus leads to a greater emphasis on the cockroach as the characteristic insect and also the singular enemy of humanity.


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Coenen, Saskia.  “Synagogues and Tourism in Early Modern Amsterdam


This paper examines the dynamic interaction between newly-built and highly visible Jewish synagogues and their local/foreign observers in seventeenth and eighteenth century Amsterdam.  Whereas synagogues had traditionally been small and hidden from public view, during Holland’s Golden Age Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews created conspicuous religious structures that became attractive sites on the tourist map of Europe.  An analysis of contemporary travelogues, letters, and diaries offers a window into the responses of foreign and local travelers, not merely to the increasing public presence of Jewish architecture in the city, but also to the place and participation of Jews in the Dutch Republic at large.



Cooperman, Bernard.  “Marginalized Inclusion: Ghettos in Early Modern Europe


Ghettoization of the Jews in the Early Modern period has usually been treated as a sign of increasing ethnic hostility and religious persecution directed from the dominant majority to the minority group.  Seen in the context of urban development, however, the ghetto represents a negotiated response to complex economic change and shifts in the balance of trade and power.  Careful study reveals the ghetto not as a retreat from medieval hospitality but – paradoxically – a new form of toleration.  It also provides the setting for the development of new, stronger institutions of self-governance among the urbanized Jews themselves.


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D’Amico, Stefano.  “Post-Plague Milan and New Traders, 1630-1650”


After the devastating plague of 1630-31, the population of Milan grew from 75,000 in 1633 to more than 100,000 around 1650.  This demographic recovery was certainly the result of sizable migratory flows.  Large numbers of people from the countryside, faced with the decline of agriculture and the collapse of rural industries, had little choice but to migrate towards the urban centers and Milan was the only city offering favorable opportunities.  This paper reflects upon the composition of these migratory flows, the new settlements established in the urban fabric, and the effects of this massive immigration on the urban productive and commercial systems.



Fisher, Alexander.  “Alls wie mann inn krieg pflegt zue thuen: Music and Catholic Processions in Early Modern Augsburg


In early modern Augsburg, the largest biconfessional city in the Holy Roman Empire, spectacular processions on the feasts of Good Friday and Corpus Christi contributed to the process of confessionalization by dramatizing Catholic dogma for observers of both faiths.  Music, ranging from Marian litanies to military music, played no small role in the effect of these processions, underlining their confessional specificity and guaranteeing that their effects would be felt throughout the city.  Extant statements by organizers, observers, and listeners suggest that the sounds of Catholic processions could reconfigure the sacred geography of this divided city, at least temporarily.


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Friedrichs, Christopher.  “The European City in Global Perspective, 1500-1800”


A long-standing intellectual tradition emphasizes the differences between European and Asian cities in the pre-modern world.  The political autonomy of some European cities and the role played by some citizens in European municipal government led theorists like Max Weber to posit a fundamental difference between “occidental” and “Asiatic” cities.  Yet while this distinction can help us understand certain features of European urban history, it obscures some other vital aspects of European urban life in the pre-modern era.  For when we move beyond the formal structures of urban governance to explore how urban groups and sub-communities actually organized themselves to pursue their collective interests, we find remarkable parallels between cities located all across the Eurasian continent from the Atlantic seaboard to Japan.  And in doing so we come to realize that what we know about Asian cities can help us to better understand the real character of European cities in the early modern era.



Germani, Ian.  “‘Gateways of the Republic:’ Besieged Cities in the Imagination of Revolutionary France


This paper provides analysis of republican decrees, speeches, prints, plays and press reports to reveal the besieged city as an important metaphor in the Jacobin discourse on terror.  It argues that the republican discourse on the besieged city provides the clearest evidence of a link between war and terror in the revolutionary imagination.  That discourse justified terror in terms of military necessity.  Nevertheless, it also betrayed a more fundamental preoccupation with republican unanimity which implied that the terror had a moral purpose transcending the achievement of victory.


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Hoople, Robin.  “Urban Iconography and Architectural Text: Henry James, Florence (1877) and New York (1905)”


Abstract unavailable at this time.



Jenstad, Janelle Day.  “Mapping Early Modern London: A Hypertext Atlas Project”


A hypertext atlas of early modern London, based on a 1560s woodcut map, allows one to navigate horizontally through space or vertically through the early history of London, thus replicating the experience of the reader of John Stow’s Survey of London.  Jenstad discusses the topographical knowledge required to live and work in London, demonstrates the atlas, and compares the navigational system of the website to the cultural work of the map itself, of Stow’s Survey, and of other guides to London life.


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Johnson, Julie.  “Rethinking the Fin de Siècle City: the Parisian New Woman”


Julie Johnson explores the complexities and contradictions of the independent “new woman” by examining how a group of notable women in the arts traversed the often unsettling and dangerous path of public and urban life in Paris of the Third Republic.  While historians have thoroughly explored the obstacles and misrepresentations that the new woman faced as she emerged into the urban, public spaces of fin-de-siècle Europe, they have largely ignored how her life was not just a hard-won achievement of independence and equality.  Public life in the fin-de-siècle city was also difficult and even unsatisfying, filled with anxiety, danger, and an imperiled sense of self.  This paper will show that these artists experienced "newness" in unstable and contradictory ways, both liberating and troubling, as they made their way in a cultural public of art viewers in the tumult of a fully modern Paris at the end of the nineteenth century.  It examines both how a sense of crisis in Paris not only allowed these women to enter new public spaces, but also the ways in which the challenges of urban life often led them to rearticulate and re-evaluate their private lives in art. 



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Land, Isaac.  “Where Was Sailortown?  Urban Geography Meets Subculture Theory”


The new field of Atlantic history has emphasized the role of port cities as sites of encounter for sailors, slaves, and other oppressed groups.  This approach challenges traditional images of “sailortown” as a self-contained maritime ghetto, distinguished from adjacent neighborhoods by occupational differences and the impenetrable jargon of the tight-knit brotherhood of seamen.  My paper applies subculture theory to this apparent contradiction, asking to what extent the difference or apartness of sailors was occupation and to what extent it was performative and self-conscious.  The answer may help us better understand sailors’ capacity to form political alliances with other groups in Europe and elsewhere.


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Lewis Hammond, Mitchell.  “Leprosy, the Pox, and Urban Life in Early Modern Germany


I investigate perceptions and social responses to leprosy and the “French Pox” in German-speaking cities of the late-16th and early-17th century.  The paper discusses the difficulty of diagnosing these diseases, distinguishing them from one another, and the consequences for charitable institutions.  I suggest that medical practitioners increasingly emerged as guarantors of individual and social health in the early modern city.



Lewis Hammond, Susan.  “Music and the Urban Agenda in Christian IV’s Copenhagen


Christian IV (r. 1588-1648) redefined Denmark’s relationship with Europe by adopting international models to revitalize his court and capital of Copenhagen.  The king enhanced the city’s cultural prestige by printing two monumental collections of Italian music: Giardino novo I-II (Copenhagen, 1605-06).  The internationalist ambition in repertory, artistic quality, and dedicatees of these anthologies served the representational needs of the Danish king and capital, and helped the kingdom rid its image as a cultural backwater.  My paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes the creativity embedded in reception, the complexity of perceptions of backwardness and isolation, and the integration implicit in urbanization.


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Martin, Kim.  “Man or Woman, Widow or Lover?  Elizabethan and Jacobean Representations of the City of London


My paper will use literary texts to come to an understanding of how London’s citizens conceptualized this city under the reign of both Elizabeth I and James I.  The city becomes embodied by a single gendered figure in the pageantry of both Thomas Dekker and Ben Johnson.  Because the city is the locale and the focus of many pageants, as well as contemporary poetry and plays, it is important to try to grasp how it was understood by its citizens.  By looking historically at literary texts, the paper attempts to understand the decision of these authors to gender their capital.



McKean, Matthew.  “Rethinking the Fin de Siècle City: London’s Crowds”


Matthew McKean examines the depiction of urban crowds in British working-class fiction at the fin de siècle in order to determine the links between degeneration and crowd theory.  Themes such as crime, poverty and drunkenness, criminality, violence and urban decay all straddle ontological categories.  They were also commonplace in the fictional representation of London’s city crowds – particularly in the working-class novels of George Gissing, William Morrison, Arthur Besant, and Margaret Harkness.  In this way, novelists’ depiction of degenerate, urban crowds are a means of reconciling theories of collectivity and regression.  This paper argues that crowds should play a much larger role in degeneration theory and that degeneration should factor more prominently into crowd theory.  Both of these theoretical models, moreover, depend entirely on the various and variegated trappings of the fin-de-siècle city.  Slum novelists depicted the crowd as starving and desperate, as criminal and aggressive, as animalistic and savage, and as drunkards and female; London’s fictional East-End streets were always crowded and its inhabitants impoverished and dangerous.  This paper proposes that theories describing the fin-de-siècle city be reconsidered within the cultural context of the period.


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Olson, Kory.  “A Tale of Two Maps: The Transformation of Paris from an Imperial to a Republican City 1870-1878”


Paris in the 19th century was a city constantly in transition.  Maps printed throughout the century indicate a city that went from a crowded 18th century capital to that of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann’s world showplace in the Second Empire.  With large, elegant boulevards, the map of the imperial Paris found in Adolphe Joanne’s Paris Illustré was one of industry and modernity, a city open for business.  Three years after Napoleon III’s unveiling of Paris to the world at the 1867 Exposition Universelle, Paris in 1870 was a city for those in power.


Paris in 1878 was again host to the Exposition Universelle.  However, the city presented eight years later had changed.  The fall of Napoleon III late in 1870 ended the Empire and brought forth the Third Republic, the form of government that would last until World War II.  The capital of France was no longer an imperial city; by 1878 it was solidly a republican city, based on equality and citizenship.  By comparing the image of Paris from Paris Illustré with that found in the 1878 Plan Bijou de Paris, a map of the city and the Exposition grounds in 1878, I will show not how the French capital had been transformed physically in those eight years, but how the use of the city by its citizenry and tourists had changed.  With more leisure time afforded to the working classes and facilitated transportation, the Exposition Universelle of 1878 was not a chance to show Paris to the world, as in 1867, but to France herself.



Panagia, Davide.  “The Edicola, the Piazza and the Noise of the Utterance”


In the paper, I examine the role of the Italian newsstand (edicola) in shaping the public life of the piazza in the late 19th & early 20th century Italian city.  I take examples from one case study – the town of Casalmaggiore – and the power dynamics of space and place that developed around the architectural layout of the city landscape.


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Saklofske, Jon.  “Between History and Hope: The Urban Centre of William Blake and William Wordsworth”

The city can be a metaphor for either history or futurity, a formal structure of established tradition or a fluid space of evolutionary possibility and hopeful excess. William Blake and William Wordsworth engage with each of these perspectives in relation to late eighteenth-century London.  Wordsworth, London's tourist, idealises the historical reality of the city by rejecting its people while Blake, London's resident, realises a future ideal of the city by imaginatively redeeming its people. The contrasts and intersections between these views challenge stereotypical Romantic attitudes towards the city while demonstrating the effects of a "mutual imposition" between city and author.


Sankey, Margaret.  Edinburgh After 1707: Second City or Center of Sedition in the 18th Century”


The Union of 1707 transformed Edinburgh from a working national capital into a cultural symbol for Scots, whose opinions of the Union varied considerably, from delighted participation in the machinery of British government, to continual plotting on behalf of the exiled Stuarts, who regularly promised the restoration of Scotland’s independence and the restoration of Edinburgh as a center of government.  My paper draws on 18th century papers, diaries and printed works from residents of all political and religious stripes to trace Edinburgh’s shift from a city of political to cultural and intellectual importance by the end of the 18th century, including its subversive use as a center of Jacobite plotting, the dispensing of patronage from London, the growing social life of urban elites, the intellectual glow of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the importance of Edinburgh as an educational center for American colonists.


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Sinclair, Struan.  “The Men of the Crowd: Transparency and Opacity in the Victorian City


E.A. Poe's “The Man of the Crowd” stands as a meditation on the corrosive power of guilt and a fable of inaccessible psychologies. The man of the crowd is a closed secret, epistemically available intermittently and only to those possessing the requisite expertise.  Poe’s story, I shall argue, reflects a widespread nineteenth-century fear of criminality as a latent, progressive infection incapacitating the social body via the figure of the criminal.  Framing the criminal classes as a social problem was inflected by multiple discourses fundamentally concerned to recast opacity as transparency.



Swales, Robin.  “A Purified New Jerusalem?  London 1654”


The 1650s have been little studied.  Early in 1654 optimism was reflected in the expansion of retail shopping, conspicuous consumption, trading in works of art and a high quality book trade.  A ‘court’ returned with negotiations for peace with both Dutch and French.  There were improved relations with government and hopes of a longer settlement.  There was emphasis on ‘environmental issues’; projections for street cleaning; improvements in water supply; building regulations on lines later followed in the 1660s, and a comprehensive attack on traffic movement.  Much had been achieved before the Restoration and the Great Fire to gain a sense of renewal.


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Swift, Megan.  “Apocalypse and Apotheosis in the Myth of St. Petersburg


Alexander Pushkin created the foundation myth for Petersburg with his 1833 epic poem “The Bronze Horseman”, a myth that inspired Dostoevsky’s city of cruel premeditation and Gogol’s stories of fog-obscured, fantastical Petersburg.  At the center of Pushkin’s poema stands the intriguing figure of the Horseman himself, the indomitable metallic image shaped by Falconet in his Bronze Horseman, the 1782 monument to the legendary founder of the city.  This paper will deal with images of apocalypse and apotheosis in a textual and cultural analysis of Pushkin’s poema, Falconet’s statue, the mythologized figure of Peter himself and the mythopoesis of the founding of “the most abstract and intentional city in the world”.



Tráser-Vas, Laura.  Berlin from a Bird’s Eye View: Literary Texts and Architectural Paintings between 1830-1860”


German city novels appeared on [the] literary scene somewhat later due to the lack of a prominent capital in the nineteenth century.  Spanning the period from the Napoleonic occupation to the 1848 revolution, the novels by Georg Hermann, Wilhelm Raabe and the paintings of Eduard Gärtner explore the modernizing Berlin.  The aim of this paper is to discover the various meanings of the elevated perspectives that all three artists apply in their works.  While comparing the spatial organizations of the city in these texts and painting, I will elaborate on the representational limits of the city and the subjectivity of the artists’ visions.



Walkowitz, Judith R.  “Feminism and the Moving Body”


In 1894, Mrs. Laura Ormiston Chant, a feminist social purity activist successfully challenged the dancing license of the Empire Theatre of Varieties in Leicester Square, London.  My talk focuses on Mrs. Chant’s theory of female bodily display, its spatial implications, and its relation to geopolitical alignments and metropolitan journeys.  I argue that one striking opposition overlooked by historians of the event was the competitive patriotism at stake in the assertion of freedom of movement.  Mrs. Chant’s body politics bore a family resemblance to some of the cultural forms and imaginative tropes of music hall entertainments.  Like the performance practices of the music hall, Mrs. Chant was herself engaged with fantasies of urban and transnational movement and with kinesthetic forms of expression that linked her to Anglo-American female reform traditions and networks.  The “Battle of the Empire” brings into relief the cosmopolitan city of global consumption.


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Watt, David.  “Hoccleve and the City”


Abstract unavailable at this time.