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Apartments, houses, and grand designs


This seminar explores what for many people is the biggest purchase of their life: property. Buying apartments, houses, and other grand designs became a common occurrence in European cities by the end of the nineteenth century and has persisted to the present day. Many Europeans also sought to encourage the development of real-estate markets in cities beyond Europe by the turn of the twentieth century, as the potential to cash-in became more and more apparent. This seminar offers a historical examination of 'property' between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, the invention of real-estate markets, the people involved and jobs created through property transitions (speculators, building companies, real-estate agents), and the paraphernalia around property purchases.

Please come to the seminar with a real-estate advertisement/magazine from the place/period you are interested in researching for your dissertation. This will involve some creative use of the digital newspaper and magazine archives held in the library catalogue, or others hosted by major national libraries online. Be prepared to introduce the source to us and one thing you find interesting about it.

Seminar questions:
  1. When did buying apartments become popular in Europe, and why?
  2. What obstacles and opportunities were there for making money out of real estate in Tangier? How might this reflect European involvement in real-estate markets elsewhere around the world at the turn of the twentieth century?
  3. What meanings have Europeans invested in their homes?
  • Yates, Alexia, 'Selling La Petite Propriété: Marketing Home Ownership in Early-twentieth-century Paris', Entreprises et Histoire, 64 (2011).
  • Miller, Susan Gilson, 'Making Tangier Modern: Ethnicity and Urban Development', in Emily R. Gottreich and Daniel Schroeter, eds., Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa (Bloomington, 2011).
  • Trentmann, Frank, 'The Consumer Revolution Comes Home', in Empire of things: how we became a world of consumers, from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first (2016)
Further Readings
  • Desmond Fitz-Gibbon, Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain (Chicago, 2018)
  • Alexia Yates, Selling Paris: Property and Commercial Culture in the Fin-de-siecle Capital (Cambridge, MA, 2015)
  • Alexia Yates, Real Estate and Global Urban History (Cambridge, 2021)
For Fun:
  • Guy Shrubsole, Who Owns England? How We Lost Our Green and Pleasant Land, and How to Take it Back (2019)