Urban Agency: The historical fabrication of the city as an object of study

The Urban Studies Institute is the leading research group of an international network studying 'the historical fabrication of the city as an object of study'. The project aims to confront recent urban theory with historical empiricism, and thus expand the historical-geographical and methodological horizon of both urban studies and urban history.

The project starts from the observation that, as urbanization proceeds, it becomes ever more difficult to actually define what a city is. We tackle this ‘urban paradox’ by a long term interdisciplinary focus on a broad range of cities while concentrating on four domains in which the definition of cities is at stake: (1) ‘suburbanisation’, (2) ‘territoriality’, (3) ‘urban citizenship’, and (4) ‘knowledge’. The latter theme adds a reflexive layer by analysing the long term interconnections between the urban reality and knowledge formation – including knowledge on the city itself.

Thus, we not only confront urban theory with historical empiricism, but we also trace the genealogy of recent urban theories as such and try to frame their intellectual origins against the differing historical development of cities in Europe and beyond.

Book publications

As a result of the WOG project ‘Urban Agency: Setting the Research Agenda of Urban History’, four volumes in the series Routledge Advances in Urban History were published.

  • Ilja Van Damme, Bert De Munck and Andrew Miles (eds), Cities and Creativity from the Renaissance to the Present (Routledge, 2017).
  • Hilde Greefs and Anne Winter (eds), Migration Policies and Materialities of Identification in European Cities (Routledge, 2018).
  • Tim Soens, Dieter Schott, Michael Toyka-Seid and Bert De Munck (eds), Urbanizing Nature: Actors and Agency (Dis)Connecting Cities and Nature Since 1500 (Routledge, 2019).
  •  Simon Gunn and Tom Hulme (eds), New Approaches to Governance and Rule in Urban Europe Since 1500 (Routledge, to be published in 2019).


Bert De Munck Stadscampus
D 325
Grote Kauwenberg 18
2000 Antwerp
Tel. ++32 (0)3 265 42 68