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EUTOPIA Urban Catastrophes Learning Community


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Since 2020, academic communities within EUTOPIA – an alliance of 10 institutions from European countries – have been organising cross-campus activities for students. The ambition of the communities is to develop students with intercultural skills, international networks, and global relationships. Students are at the heart of the activities, and they shape their own learning outcomes.

Learning Unit

This Learning Unit will introduce students to urban history by focussing on the most extreme examples of urban crises in the twentieth and twenty-first century. In dramatic circumstances, urban reconstruction also brings to light many issues of great importance to modern historians: the link between the built environment and local identity, the nature of social cohesion, the relationship between state and civil society, the emergence of transnational solidarity, etc.

The course will combine general and comparative discussions with individual case-studies that will inform our collective reflection.

These will include cities destroyed by earthquakes (Valparaiso, 1906; Tokyo, 1923; San Juan – Argentina, 1944, or Mexico City, 1986), hurricanes (New Orleans, 2005), fires (1871; San Francisco, 1906; Salonika, 1917), accidents (Halifax, 1917) and floods (Sheffield, 1864, Melbourne, 1891).

We will also consider the dramatic impact of deindustrialization and economic decline (Camden, NJ). Inevitably, of course, this module will also deal with post-conflict reconstructions including in the aftermath of the First World War (Reims and Lviv); the Spanish Civil War (Barcelona); the Second World War (Coventry, Leningrad); the Lebanese Civil War (Beirut) and the collapse of Yugoslavia (Sarajevo).