H211 Cities in History

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This course is an introduction to urban history, exploring how cities have been shaped and in what ways urban dynamics have transformed human society. The idea is to examine urban history as a process in which economic, social, political, cultural, and morphological changes are interrelated, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of urban history. This course does not focus on the typology or the biography of historical cities. It is rather about understanding complex dynamics of urbanisation that provides a foundation on which students can build their own research into the urban past and present of their case studies.
London, Paris, New York, and Chicago used to attract the attention of urban and social historians. Nowadays, the centre of urbanisation is shifted to Asia and the Global South, where the fast-growing mega cities are shaping the future of inter-connected global landscape of urbanisation, defined as planetary urbanisation. This new reality challenges the conventional debates in urban history and places cities of Asia and the Global South in the limelight of academic urban debates. Although this course is not focused on particular geographical regions or historical periods, it addresses those thematic topics that are more relevant to studying the past, present and future of cities in Asia and the Global South during last two centuries.


  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

  • Distinguish what makes a historical research question in the field of urban studies, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches in urban history.
  • Formulate and refine their research question through the identification of, engagement with, and critique of existing urban historiography.
  • Understand the possibilities and limits of various kinds of sources and information that are often used in urban historical studies.
  • Integrate materials and information from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary, in order to pursue an urban history study based on an interdisciplinary awareness.
  • Present the findings of the research in a way that demonstrates a capacity to think conceptually about historical dynamics of cities, while developing competency as a historian.

Scope and syllabus

  • Introduction: The origins of cities and key concepts in urbanisation
  • What is urban history?
  • On methodologies: From methods to methodologies, from censuses to maps
  • Dynamics of social makeup and urban margins
  • Religions and the city: A new perspective
  • The city as market: Dynamics of urban Economy
  • Technological innovations and development of urbanisation
  • City and Power: Capital cities and formation of new nation-states
  • History of urban design and urban modernisation
  • Representations of cities as part of urban history

Method of assessment

  • Exam (50%)
  • Essay, 2,000 words (50%)


Michael Charney



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules