Urban History Group Meeting
University of Durham, 3 - 4 April 2003
REASSESSING URBAN POLITICS
Politics, in the widest sense, has always been central to the understanding of urban history. Recent discussion of the topic has tended to focus on key issues such as the role of elites, systems of governance and the development of civil society, highlighting the ways in which the city was run and who was responsible for its management. Much of this discussion has concentrated on emphasising the levels of unity and consensus within the governing classes and their systems of governance with the result that there has been limited exploration of conflict and negotiation; of the place of party and the cultural and interest divisions which fed into political competition; and of the place of ideology in the running of the cities. This conference aims to address these issues by reassessing urban politics, its ideology, policies and parties, setting out to answer the broad question 'Why do cities need politics and what did they get?
Themes which we wish to address include:
The importance of party in a local context, especially the local cultural and environmental factors which shaped divisions along party lines and the trends which diminished or exacerbated such divisions.
Did party destroy or enhance the sense of place and space; was a sense of place and space antithetical to "party".
The significance of ideology in shaping party opinion and local attitudes to local governance. Was there room for ideological division within local politics and how did it manifest itself?
What part did party and ideology play in shaping urban policy at both the local and national level?
The experience of local party cultures and rituals; the extent to which the form parties took and the policies they pursued were shaped by issues such as class, gender, ethnicity, locality and religious division.
The process of contestation and negotiation in the local political sphere.
The part party played, whether positive or negative, in the transition from corrupt, closed to democratic, mass local politics and the extent to
which various political actors employed interests and parties in this process.
Local party politics as a platform for national politics, whether in the careers of individual politicians or the electoral strategies of new, particularist or reviving parties.
The part played by party and ideology in shaping national policy on local governance and the boundaries of local politics.
Political clashes between local and central government as seen in Britain over Poplar, Clay Cross or the GLC
Though concentrating on the post-1750 period and with an emphasis on the British experience, the conference organisers encourage proposals from those working in earlier periods and in non-British, especially European, urban history. In particular, papers which address the issue of the operation of party at a local level in regimes which could be characterised as autocratic or even absolutist would be of special interest.
Abstract proposals (circa 300 words) should be sent by January 14, 2003 to the conference academic organisers:
Centre for Historical and Local Historical Research
University of Teeside
Middlersbrough, UK TS1 3BA
Department of Economic and Social History
William Robertson Building
Edinburgh EH8 9JY
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