Urban History: Approaches, Sources and Topics

Cities, as it is very well known, witnessed enormous growth in the XIXth century both physically and demographically. Therefore, studies of urbanization and possibility of life within these huge areas were the pioneer works of urban history. 1960s was the turning point for urban history in the way of to be an independent discipline. The main two themes of the debate at that period were, first, the definition of the urban history and hence its interaction with the other disciplines and, second, the shifts occurred in the topics of urban history and the methods of urban historians. Even the debates on these themes have been continuing nowadays. I think, by means of a coherent definition and permanent redefinitions, urban history could have the opportunity of benefiting from other disciplines in a more fruitful way. It other words, combining the space, time, societal and other contextual variables in a problematique that one urban historian seeks to analyze could give it the distinguished place as a melting pot of different aspects, sources, methods and questions of many disciplines. Today urban history gets a good place within the academia of the West. However, it is not yet so in Turkey. Nevertheless, there occurred a shift from urban studies depending only one kind of archival sources to those using many different sources comparatively and taking city as a living organism. However, the existing studies have not been sufficient in using the comparative perspective in analyzing the cities both from the different regions of the Empire and of the World. Besides, thematic studies those take a problematic within the city and examine it from the different angles comparing, in some instances, with other cities have not been on the agenda of urban historians so far. Nevertheless, the group of studies that we mentioned in the last part of this paper gives us the signs of the expected kind of urban studies for the near future. This paper examines, first, history of urban history in the West. Then, it is focusing on urban historiography in Turkey, discussing concept of the Islamic city, as well.

Yunus UĞUR

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