Saturday, March 12, 2011

Resources of the City: Towards a European Urban Environmental History

Book Chapter

by Dieter Schott

This book originates in a conference held at the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester in June 2002 on ‘Urban Environment: Resources, Perceptions, Uses’. Nearly forty scholars from Europe, North America and Japan came to this ‘Second Round- Table on Environmental History’ which took its place in a – still developing – line of similar events which aim to generate discussion on European environmental history in and related to cities.
One of the steps on the way to the Leicester meeting was a major session on ‘Urban Environmental Problems’ at the International Conference of Urban History in Venice 1998, organised by Christoph Bernhardt, which resulted in a book comprising contributions from some of the leading scholars in the field. Eleven papers, covering six European countries and the USA, dealt with a wide range of topics relating to the history of the urban environment. From this well-received initiative longer-term cooperation developed in the form of bi-annual round-tables on environmental history.
In May 2000 the first of the round-tables was held in Clermont- Ferrand, France, organised by Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud. The central theme was ‘Pollution in Cities’ and the papers delivered and the volume in which they were collected4 demonstrated that urban environmental history is now following a promising trajectory in Europe. As we shall see, earlier impulses had their origins in the Unite States. The leading and inspiring role played by American scholars is highlighted by the example of Joel Tarr, a pioneer in the field. Based on a comprehensive state-of-the-art survey of major studies in American urban and environmental history, Tarr has pointed out how, since the early 1990s, urban environmental history has emerged in the USA as a ‘major sub-field of both urban and environmental history’.

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