Healthy or Unhealthy Cities? Urban History Group Conference 2018 Keele University, 5th & 6th April

Healthy or Unhealthy Cities? Urban environments, cultures and economies of public and private health, 1600 to the present.

By their very nature towns and cities were and still are potentially unhealthy spaces, beset by problems of disease, pollution and inadequate housing. Yet cities have also been centres for reform and significantly improved ‘health’ provision: the great leaps forward in sanitation, environmental and industrial regulation, provision of hospitals and other medical services were themselves driven by the pressures of urbanisation. Although this ‘progress’ was neither linear nor without significant resistance, the impetus to promote change and to extend provision could and did bind city communities together. Indeed, as recent assessments have shown, cities became the increasingly healthy option as services and environments improved.

The health of urban populations and healthiness of urban environments and experience, therefore, remain central to our understanding of how towns and cities do or do not function.  The 2018 UHG conference will explore how we interpret and historicise the highs and lows of urban health and environment alongside the responses and experiences these produce.

In framing your paper or making a proposal for a panel you may wish to consider some of the following:

  • How healthy or unhealthy were cities compared to say rural environments; in what sense were problems localised or area specific, and did this impact on the city’s aggregated view of itself?
  • How has the (un)healthy city been represented to urban dwellers? How important were the perceptions of health and/or inequality over empirical knowledge in determining outcomes?
  • What drove forward health, pollution, environmental, housing and sanitary reform?  Was it largely pragmatic or idealistic; economic or research driven; led by locals or national agents?
  • What role did protest and radical action play in changing approaches to urban health?
  • What is the role of class, age, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity in determining access to a healthy urban life?
  • What was the correlation between economic activity and urban health?  How has regulation and planning impacted upon economic and industrial productivity; what tensions arise in creating cities that are both healthy and wealthy?
  • In terms of medical provision, who were the key actors, why were they involved and what did they achieve?
  • What were the limits and strengths of ‘voluntaryism’, how involved was the community in this and in what ways did the voluntary, religious and state systems inter-react?

The conference committee invites individual papers and panel proposals of up to three papers. Papers might be in the form of thematic or case studies, cutting across time and space to draw out the larger-scale historical process at work in relation to the conference theme. Contributions ranging from c.1600 to the present are welcome and can be drawn from any geographical area. Contributions from doctoral candidates (see below) are an important feature of the Urban History Group conferences and so these, too, are encouraged and can be financially supported with modest bursaries.


Abstracts of up to 300 words, including a paper or panel title, name, affiliation and contact details should be submitted to and should indicate clearly how the content of the paper addresses the conference themes outlined above. Those wishing to propose sessions should provide a brief statement that identifies the ways in which the session will address the conference theme, a list of speakers, and abstracts. The final deadline for proposals for sessions and papers is 7th October 2017.


The conference will again host its new researchers’ forum, which is composed of two strands. The first is aimed primarily at those who are at an early stage of a PhD or early career research project. New researchers’ papers should be the same length and follow the same submission rules as the main sessions, but need not be related to the main conference theme. The second strand provides an opportunity for first-year PhD students to present a 10 minute introduction to their topic, archival materials, and the specific urban historiography. This is an opportunity to obtain feedback from active researchers in the field of Urban History, but also to introduce your work to colleagues in the field. Please submit all proposals to marking them clearly ‘New Researchers’ or ‘First Year PhD’ in the subject field and on the abstract.


Bursaries. Students registered for postgraduate study can obtain a modest bursary on a first come, first served basis to offset expenses associated with conference registration and attendance. Please send an e-mail application to Dr Nick Hayes at and also ask your supervisor to confirm your status as a registered postgraduate student with an e-mail to the same address. Deadline 8th December 2017. The Urban History Group would like to acknowledge and thank the Economic History Society for its support for these bursaries.

For further details please contact

Conference Organisers


Dr James Greenhalgh

University of Lincoln

Tel: 01522 83 7729



Dr Markian Prokopovych

University of Birmingham

Tel: 0121 414 3259


For New Researchers


Dr Tom Hulme,

Queen’s University, Belfast

Tel: 028 90973312






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s