Historical Geographies, Urban

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Historical geography by definition is intended to research all spatial aspects of the past. Despite this, historical geographers avoided the research of urban areas for a long time. This was due to the dominance of regionalism in geography during the time of the formation of modern historical geography in the 1920s and 1930s. The founding fathers of the subdiscipline concentrated on the research of rural areas especially of the pre-Industrial-Revolution British Isles, in which towns were considered as part of the regional system while their inner structure was not yet considered a subject of research. The rise of urban studies and of urban history and growing interest of scholars from fields such as architecture, economy, and sociology in histories of urban areas obliged historical geographers to draw more attention to the study of the past of cities and towns. Growing number of publications on urban historical geography during the 1970s and early 1980s resulted in a debate over defining and dividing historical geographers from other scholars specializing in the history of urban areas such as urban historians; social, economic, and urban geographers; and historians of architecture. Nevertheless, interests of urban historical geographers ranged from urban morphology, structure, and functions to social–historical geography of cities and towns, from evolution of European towns in the Middle Ages to the formation of modern cities in the nineteenth century, and to the preservation of historical cites as well. This hampered with the attempt to form a synthetic approach in urban historical geography intended at the integration of different concepts, theories, and methodologies into a coherent method of research of urban past geographies. The reemergence of cultural geography in the 1980s that marked the emergence of a postmodern geography seems to render irrelevance to the effort of forming such a coherent method. A different approach, liberal eclecticism, rose among historical geographers and afforded the development of urban historical geographies contesting any attempt to form dominance of place, period, or method of research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-12
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Cultural geography
  • Geographies
  • Historical geography
  • Urban history
  • Urban studies
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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