How have cities changed in the last 5000, 500, or 50 years? This course introduces students to the sweep of urban history by examining shifting patterns of development, expansion, social relationships, and economic activities. We trace the evolution of the city’s form and development through the ancient world, medieval Europe, and modern America. Examples are taken primarily from the Western experience.

Within the context of that chronological evolution, we are going to examine the current polemical discussion around city form, represented by the term “sprawl.” Many policymakers and urban reformers are convinced that the current urban structure sets the stage for ecological disaster and social alienation. By looking at the evolution of the city as a place, perhaps we can better understand the roots of this reform movement, as well as the historical context for the contemporary form of the city.

Students will be asked to read a series of articles, book chapters and books about the historical development of the city. The class structure will be lecture and discussion, with regular class participation by students regarding the readings and their views on the issues raised by the lectures and readings.

Students will be required to complete a final examination and two written assignments along with regular participation in the class. The first assignment is related to Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. The second is a short research project on sprawl in contemporary America.


Monday/Wednesday, 12-1:50pm