Centre for Urban history

Vision statement

Centre for Urban History Vision Statement

The Centre for Urban History is a unique institution for the study of towns and cities. It grew out of the pioneering work of H.J. Dyos who held the first chair in urban history in Britain from 1971. Since then the Centre has continued to lead the way in exploring the historical study of the city as a complex physical and social system that demands multi-disciplinary forms of understanding. The importance of this understanding is underlined by the escalating urbanisation in contemporary India and China, which means that we inhabit a global world that is increasingly urban.


The present focus of the Centre’s work is the urban history of Europe and Asia since 1700, encompassing local, national and international dimensions of the urban past. Through the East Midlands Oral History Archive we have expertise in the recent history of Leicester and its region. We have specialist expertise in the history of antiquarianism, conservation and planning in Britain and further afield. We also cover aspects of the urban history of India and China in the 19th and 20th centuries, encompassing both colonial and world cities. Our knowledge and expertise have a global as well as a local reach and are responsive to new areas of research.  We share a dual perspective, explaining how cities have evolved through time while promoting understanding of the historic environment today.


The purpose of the Centre for Urban History is research and postgraduate education. Research is at the heart of what we do, covering everything from the production of scholarly books to consultancy. We bid successfully for funding from research councils and organisations such as Heritage Lottery to run research projects, resulting in outputs that include exhibitions, educational resources and audio-tours. We use our expertise to contribute to international scholarly associations while creating partnerships – for instance, with bodies such as the Royal Town Planning Institute - that extend knowledge of the urban past outside the academy. Our research underpins the postgraduate education we offer in the form of three taught Masters’ courses in Urban History, Urban Conservation and European Urbanisation and the research-based PhD. The Centre’s purpose is to train the next generation of researchers in urban history and professionals in urban conservation. In providing this education we work with partners in English Heritage and Leicester City Council.


The vision for the Centre for Urban History is to remain one of the world’s leading institutes for the study of the urban past. This implies deepening and extending our two-fold purpose of research and education. In the next ten years we shall strengthen our reputation with research councils, international agencies and policy-makers as a Centre for path-breaking research on urbanisation, urban cultures and the historic environment. And we are becoming a truly international Centre for training postgraduate students from across the world in the study of urban history, global cities and historic conservation. The result will be a vibrant Centre, influencing scholarship and policy-making at the highest levels in the understanding of how cities worked in the past and how they can be sustained in the future. 

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