The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST5592 Patterns in Urban History and Development

Semester 1 (2020-2021)

Lecture TimeTuesday 6:30pm-8:15pm


Lecturer Ian MORLEY ((852) 3943 7116 /

Teaching Assistant Chu Mengyu ((852) 6748 6380 /

Course Description

This module provides an introductory survey of the history of urban development from the ancient period to the end of the twentieth century. It focuses on the forces that have led to the development of cities in the past, and achieves this through the lens of a multi-disciplinary perspective and the utilisation of various methodologies. Such a standpoint is adopted in order to allow for the exploration of the impacts of matters like politics, economics, culture and identity, art and architecture, intellectual thought, law, transportation, and military technology upon urban society at different times in history, and to recognise how they influenced the design and shape of the built environment, and so city living. Central to the programme is the use of comparative analyses which assist in identifying and contrasting patterns of urban change. As such differences in urban design that became evident in the past will be made clear. Furthermore, such an approach helps illuminate and clarify the imprint upon urban space and the urban mind of agents affecting the urban development process, including visions and concepts (built and unbuilt) that have swayed social development. Importantly too in utilising this analytical perspective the students are granted opportunities to test hypotheses under the guidance of their teacher about the causes and effects of urban transition, in so doing helping explicitly comprehend the narrative of historical urban development in both factual and conceptual terms.


The course is designed with particular outcome-based learning objectives in mind:


  1. To develop an understanding of the causes of urban development and the various agents that act upon cities (e.g. cultural, social, environmental, economic, legal, etc.) so as to expand already held knowledge about urban places across the world.
  2. To recognise the relationship between the evolution of the design of urban settlements and the nature of societies.
  3. To know how and why various contexts affect the shape and appearance of urban places within distinct historical periods.
  4. To train to see and read urban places through the use of maps and various visual sources in order to recognise distinct architectural and urban design styles belonging to particular eras of the past.
  5. To exhibit critical thinking and basic research skills through the writing of academic essays.

By achieving these objectives students shall collect grades that contribute towards their end of term score. For further details of the how the course grade is given please refer to the section ‘Grading’.


The curriculum for HIST5592 is:


Week 1. Introduction Class: The First Cities

The lecture will also discuss what the first cities were like. It will analyse how the first urban societies differed from rural societies. It will also introduce the physical expressions that new forms of urban-based social organisation took.



Week 2. Greeks and Romans

What were Greek and Roman cities like? Did they share similar features? Did they contrast with each other in any ways? How did Greek and Roman cities express the concept of power – power of the people, religion, authority?


Week 3. Europe’s Medieval Era, Cathedrals and Urban Places

What were the main characteristics of the Medieval City? What architecture dominated towns and cities at that time? Why? Were all European Medieval Cities alike? What was housing like at that time? What were the main factors in controlling its form?


Week 4. The Renaissance and Baroque City: Humanism to Autocracy

How did the Renaissance conceptualise the ideal city? What were the areas of Renaissance urban planning, its design components and aesthetic considerations? What cultural factors affected the Renaissance concept of planning? How did military developments affect urban design? What were the principles on which the 16th century Popes, such as Pope Sixtus V, re-planned Rome, or aristocratic leaders redesigned their palaces? In what ways were their approaches innovative? Why do you think their ideas were copied and continued elsewhere in Europe during the next 300 years?


Week 5. The London Terraced House and Square

What were the main characteristics of the London terraced house? How were residential areas laid out from 1660 until the 19th century? How did this form an Italianisation of London? Why do you think the form of terraced housing changed so little in over 200 years? What led to its abandonment? Were other British cities developed in the same way as London? Did the ideas practised in London also have an effect in the British Empire?


Week 6. Coping with Change (i) Coketowns: Dirt, Disease, Death, Deprivation

Was Charles Dickens’ fictional industrial town Coketown true of living conditions in the early-1800s in Europe? What problems were industrial settlements experiencing regardless of their location (including ones in the US)? How were these towns contributing (or not) to national economic development? How did the rich and how did the poor live? What impact did people like Friedrich Engels, a first-hand observer of modern urbanisation, have? How did Britain control its environmental problems, and how did this affect its colonies?


Week 7. Coping with Change (ii) London and Paris in the mid-19th Century

What were the principle difference between the growth of Paris and London in the 19th century? How do you explain these differences? Who were the main actors in the transformations that took place? Was Paris designed to be a work of art or did the urban renewal agenda incorporate other factors? Did Paris’ development affect London, and if so how and why?


Week 8. The City Beautiful: The North American City

How did the rapid urbanisation of the US from the late-1800s affect American thinking about the city? What is the relationship between architects and the American City by about 1900? What was the nature of the City Beautiful Movement? What impact did it have? Why did the City Beautiful, a strictly American concept, spread to places like Manila, Guangzhou and Nanjing? How did the City Beautiful cross cultural borders? Why did the City Beautiful Movement die?


Week 9. Architects and Utopia: New Directions to National Development

What was the distinctive contribution of Raymond Unwin, Tony Garnier, and Le Corbusier to urban development in the 20th century? What were the similarities between the approaches the adopted? What were the differences? How effective do you think each was in establishing a new model of urban development? How optimistic were they? Why did idealistic European ideas have an influence in places like India by the 1950s? Do these ideas have any historical comparisons with ideal cities from the Renaissance?


Week 10. Colonial and Post-Colonial Urban Statements: New Delhi and Canberra

How did the design and plan of environments such as New Delhi and Canberra express sentiments relating to colonialism? What forms did these environments have, and how did they use historicism to establish modern city environments? In the case of Canberra, how did politics affect the design of the city? Is Canberra today the product of urban planning or government attitudes? In what ways was the competition to design Canberra an international scandal, and how did this influence the selection of prize winners? Additionally, did the Indian wish to free itself from colonialism lead to new city types or a re-use of British ideas?


Week 11. City Faces (i). Identities and Nationalism: Antoni Gaudi and Barcelona

How and why did Barcelona develop in the way it did from the mid-1800s? What factors affected its development from the second half of the nineteenth century to the early-1900s? What role did Antoni Gaudi play in this process? And how did his identity as a Catalan affect his architectural work? How is Gaudi’s work now perceived given his image at the centre of Barcelona’s tourist industry, the local cultural renaissance, and the fall of Franco?


Week 12. City Faces (ii). Skyscrapers and their Meanings

What were the origins of high-rise construction? Where were the earliest examples of high-rise offices and housing to be found, and what form did they take? Why did high-rise housing come to be seen as an important means of dealing with housing provision after the Second World War? What led to its eventual abandonment in Britain but its continued use in other countries? What is the significance of high-rise construction today in Asia? Why are the largest buildings in the world found in countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and the UAE? What symbolic messages/readings lie within tall buildings and why do they have great meaning to particular societies as they evolve?


Week 13. Manila: Urban History and Built Heritage

In summing up the course attention will be put upon the capital city of the Philippines, Manila. The class will discuss its urban form and meaning during different past times, and discuss how it has shaped debate in the city about built heritage.

Assessment & Assignments

Students shall be given a term grade based on:


  1. Participation – 30% of total term score. This grade is given in relation to
  1. Attendance of lectures and tutorials
  2. Participation (participating in lecture and tutorial discussions, the asking of questions in classes, and engagement with online discussions on the HIST5592 Facebook group)
  3. Introductory composition (about 300-400 words, it relating to your understanding of a video to be watched as preparation for tutorial 1).

 2.   Short paper (1500-2000 words) – 30% of term grade.

 3.   Take-home examination (2000-2500 words) – 40% of term grade.


The tutorials grant students the chance to discuss the topics introduced in the lectures, and in addition they bestow opportunities to help resolve any problems in understanding course content that the students may have. To prepare for these classes materials will be given out beforehand. To provoke debate during the tutorials students will be asked to undertake short presentations, and participate in question and answer sessions. The purpose of this is straightforward: to allow for student involvement, active learning, and where possible deeper learning and thinking.

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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