Central European Cities c.1500 - 1914

Course Material 2024/25

Teachers: Dr William O’Reilly, Dr Markus Böick (one class)

Teaching: There will be 15 two-hour classes on the thematic topics set out below (eight in Michaelmas, seven in Lent) plus one two-hour gobbet-preparation class in Lent term. In Easter term there will two classes: one on the different kinds of sources used in the course and one on gobbet preparation, on consolidation and revision. 

  • Michaelmas: 8 x 120-min classes 
  • Lent: 8 x 120-min classes 
  • Easter: 2 x 120-min classes

This paper explores the history of cities in Central Europe, including but not limited to Berlin, Budapest, Prague and Vienna, leading up to the fin-de-siécle, examining how political, cultural, intellectual and artistic vibrancy common to these cities emerged from deeply different civic cultures.

In this paper we will survey the urban development of the cities and review the effects of urban growth, of emigration and immigration, or invasion and expansion, and of modernization and nationalism, impacted on various aspects of the three cities’ cultures. We will examine the process of physical change, as population growth, royal and imperial residence, religious persecution, and toleration, of cultural experimentation and vibrancy, and of industrialization and the rising middle class, came to usher in a new age of tenements, suburbs, and town planning. We will explore the mentality of nobles and elites, of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, of residents and newcomers, through a study of primary and secondary sources. By critically examining such subjects as the mentality of the nobility, the views of Ottoman soldiers outside the walls of Vienna, of city authorities’ attitudes toward Roma, Jews, and other ‘Strangers’ in the city, of art, music, and cultural musical life, we will reveal the striking relationship between historical memory and creation, social marginality, and cultural creativity. We examine the growth of urbanism in terms of the social, economic, political and cultural conditions of the time and in the context of the changing spatial and temporal dimensions of political power and culture. Themes explored include the process and causes of urbanization, the changing populations of the cities (including religious and ethnic minorities, migrant, and worker communities); analysis of the physical city (its urban form and spatial topography, landmarks and architectural monuments); the distinctive identities of capital cities; policing the city; and debates on urban planning and historical preservation. Class meetings will consist of seminars, class discussions, student presentations, analysis of readings, sound and film presentations. While some classes will focus on one city, class discussion will lead into a critical examination of other cities.

  1. Brenner, N. and C. Schmid. 2015. “Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban?” City, vol. 19 (2-3), pp. 151-182. 
  2. Wirth, L. 1938. “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” In The City Reader: 4th Edition, LeGates, R.T. and F. Stout (eds.). New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 90-97. 
  3. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. “The Power in the Story”. In Silencing the Past: Power and Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press, pp.1-30. 
  4. Hayden, Dolores. 1997. “Urban Landscape History: The Sense of Place and the Politics of Space”. In The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History, Boston: MIT Press, pp.15-43. 
  5. Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991), pp.37-41