Today, the ideal of the “open city” is at the heart of the urban reality in Europe. For many centuries, however, virtually all major European cities were walled and accessible only through particular entry points (the city gates) and during certain hours of the day. The keys to the city served not only to lock up the city gates, but also epitomized the idea of the city as a distinct area of security, order, and law. Taking a pan-European perspective (while also foregrounding examples from Belgian cities), this keynote starts with a simple, but—I believe—significant question: who was actually allowed to enter a premodern city? And who was “locked out”? These questions lead into the heart of our conference theme: how did the material presence of walls and gates contribute to the dynamic of urban exclusion and inclusion? How did it contribute to inequality as a fundamental experience of urban life?

Daniel Jütte is Associate Professor of History at New York University. Recent publications in the field of urban history include: The Strait Gate: Thresholds and Power in Western History (Yale University Press, 2015); “Toward a History of the Corner,” in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 73–74 (2020), as well as “Living Stones: The House as Actor in Early Modern Europe,” in Journal of Urban History 42, no. 4 (2016). He is currently completing a book titled, Transparency: The Material History of an Idea (forthcoming with Yale University Press).