By Ori Preuss, Tel Aviv University
“The enthusiasm with which he described what he calls the ‘the major phenomenon of the Latin race in the nineteenth century,’ his endless admiration for a growth unmatched by any other people of our origin, made me embarrassed for having been so many times in Europe and for not having visited yet the River Plate,” thus wrote Joaquim Nabuco in an article that appeared in a popular Rio de Janeiro newspaper in 1887. The piece narrated travel impressions recounted to Brazil’s foremost abolitionist leader by Portuguese author Ramalho Ortigão, who had gone from Rio to Buenos Aires and back that year. I first came across it in one of the scrapbooks of Argentine statesman-writer Estanislao Zeballos. It was a Spanish version, published in the Buenos Aires press under the title “Ramalho Ortigão in the River Plate / Enthusiastic Concepts / The United States of South America / An Article by Nabuco / From O País of Rio de Janeiro,” attesting to the circulation of both people and information between the two capitals. Continue reading
By Beate Löffler, University of Duisburg-Essen, Carola Hein, Delft University of Technology, and Tino Mager, Delft University of Technology
For a long time, urban history, as a field of study, focused on textual sources and elite subjects, and the scholars were mostly historians. In the twentieth century, historians studying large western cities started to experiment with a more holistic approach, engaging with other disciplines and sources to gain deeper insight into bigger questions; in particular, they integrated approaches from social sciences and started to shift questions away from material culture to social interaction in a broader sense. Then, in the late 1980s, the spatial turn in the social sciences influenced urban studies, bringing forward the intermingled complexity of social and physical space that is only hinted at in textual sources and thus elusive in research. Some years later, the pictorial turn further widened the field to include more disciplines: as more visual sources became available, they attracted the attention of scholars other than the archaeologists, historians of art, architecture, and urban form who had traditionally worked with visuals. This holistic character of urban history also makes it particularly fitting for studies on the global scale, as the case of Tokyo shows.
By Jim Clifford, University of Saskatchewan
Greater London’s population increased by five million during the nineteenth century and the city developed into a major center of industry, transforming the marshlands of the Thames Estuary into polluted and crowded urban landscapes. The rich collection of nineteenth-century London maps make digital mapping a powerful tool for exploring the environmental history of West Ham, the River Lea, and Greater London. The interactive map of factories digitized from the five feet to the mile Ordinance Survey, displays the historical Geographic Information Systems database at the core of my book West Ham and the River Lea: A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshland, 1839–1914.
Image of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) flour mill in Silvertown, 1915 (Wikipedia)
By Botakoz Kassymbekova, Technical University of Berlin
In fin-de-siècle Russia, just as in many other parts of the world, rapid industrialization and the development of transportation and communication systems led to the growth of modern metropolises. Mass luxury hotels became one of their symbols and key infrastructures. As a 1907 advertisement of the new Palace Hotel in St. Petersburg announced:
“A massive development of international relations in the fields of politics, trade, industry, science and arts, due to the latest great achievements in transport communication […] brings humanity towards the ultimate victory over space and gives the possibility for further advancement in global rapprochement… The newest hotels of central Europe such as the Ritz in Paris, the Ritz and Carlton in London, the Adlon in Berlin […] became places of sociability and encounter between the best cosmopolitan and local societies.”
Restaurant “Iar” in Moscow around 1900. Source: pastvu.com/68015
By Minayo Nasiali, University of California, Los Angeles
During the spring and summer of 2017, the Marseille city council approved a series of measures aimed at limiting the number of kebab shops in downtown neighborhoods. The city will draw from a fund of 1.5 million euros to take-over leases of empty storefronts and to hand-pick new businesses to open shop in the city center. According to city council member Yves Moraine, no existing businesses will be forced to close, only that moving forward, the city will prioritize high-end retail and “quality restaurants” over kebab shops (often known as les snacks) and other small businesses including family-run grocery and bric-a-brac stores. Such shops are often run by migrants from former French colonies, or by their children who were born in France.
The Vieux Port, with City Hall in the foreground. Photo by the author.
By Cyrus Schayegh, The Graduate Institute Geneva
How has the modern world been formed spatially? Historians have pored over that question for the last two hundred years. From the mid-nineteenth century and deep into the twentieth, many concentrated on nation-states; in the last few decades, globalization has been the name of the game. How do cities fit into these historiographic models? This question is critical for urban historians interested in more than “simply” intramural affairs. In 1998, Charles Tilly exhorted urban historians to pay more attention to “how big social processes interact with small scale social life.” As if in response, Andrew Lees and Lynn Hollen Lees noted that cities became a “‘third force’ in modern European society:” a key space linking individuals with nation-states. More recently yet, Jürgen Osterhammel has pointed out that in the rapidly globalizing nineteenth century, cities became ever more intensely hubs for state bureaucratic action, economic pivots, hot houses of knowledge, and centers of sociability.
Beirut air connections in the 1950s.
Pierre Singaravélou, Tianjin Cosmopolis: Une autre histoire de la mondialisation, Paris, Seuil, 2017. 384 pp., € 24.00.
Reviewed by Gabriel Doyle, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
In the study of European imperialism in China, the Boxer rebellion that shook the Qing Empire at the turn of the twentieth century is an unavoidable cornerstone. Nonetheless, some phenomena tied to this rebellion still nourish new studies, such as Pierre Singaravélou’s book Tianjin Cosmopolis. His book is focused on a short period of time, between 1900 and 1902, when an international municipal government took over the city of Tianjin, located about 100 kilometres from the capital Beijing. Addressing a series of events that have been, according to the author, “curiously eluded by historiography” (81), the book offers a study of turn-of-the-century globalization, fitted into the streets of a Chinese city. Continue reading
By Richard Harris, MacMaster University, and Charlotte Vorms, University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne
As historical scholars, we know that the meaning of words often changes, and that those changes can matter. Sometimes they matter a lot, familiar examples being “race” and “gender.” But when the meaning of a word doesn’t change for a time everyone begins to take it for granted. For most North Americans, “suburb” is one such a word.
1958 American Lawn Food Ad
By Juliana Bosslet, SOAS, University of London
Angolan magazines in the 1960s and early ‘70s often insisted that Luanda was “the most Portuguese” of all African cities. The supposed exceptionalism of the Portuguese colonial case led not only academics but also contemporary social actors to analyze it as a development somehow apart from the British and French empires. Portuguese backwardness, the country’s inability to “civilize” its colonies, and even the high levels of miscegenation and settlers “going native,” amongst other widely held beliefs, had long been deployed to justify this exceptionalism. However, despite the uniqueness of each colonial experience, the Portuguese territories in Africa shared important developments with contemporary empires in the continent, including the rapid urbanization of a few centers, as was the case of Luanda. Continue reading