The Centre for Urban History is an international acknowledged research centre focusing on urban societies, structures and processes in historical perspective. It approaches 'urban history' as a part of an inclusive field of 'urban studies', comprising interdisciplinary insights from urban sociology, cultural studies, demography, economic geography, planning and architecture, urban governance and environmental sciences. As such, the CSG is one of the principal partners of the University of Antwerp Urban Studies Institute.
The overarching aim of the Centre for Urban History is to question the weight of the ‘urban variable’ across time and space. Attention is paid to institutions, actors, materials, technologies, as well as ideas, mentalities and discourses that make up the historically changing urban fabric or ‘assemblage’. Studying what a city or urban environment does to people, takes up a central role in the current ‘urban agency’-network.
However, no city is an island. Cities originate and flourish in permanent interaction not only with each other, but also with their specific natural setting and the agrarian hinterland that surrounds them. A modern historical understanding of urban growth and development hence also requires the in-depth study of both urban-nature and town-countryside relationships. Hence, the CSG also focuses on the history of water and flood protection; coastal wetland development; urban sanitation; urban green space; nutrient flows between city and countryside; common wasteland management; rural industries and peri-urban agriculture. The methodological expertise on the use of GIS for historical purposes is reflected in the GIStorical Antwerp-project, funded by the Hercules Foundation and the University of Antwerp, which aims to create a spatial data-environment for the study of urban development.
The Centre for Urban History participates in various urban heritage projects both at national and international levels. It forms part of an international network of city museums across Europe (Barcelona, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Lyon, Rome and Krakow), collaborates with several libraries (for instance with the special collection of prints and drawings at the University of Antwerp library), and is involved in the representation of urbanity and urban history in the Belgium city museums of Antwerp, Mechelen and Bruges.
Since 2006 the CSG has published the international bi-annual periodical “Stadsgeschiedenis”, which focuses on historical urban issues concerning the Low Countries