Keynotes Programme

Catherine Horel


The "fight for the city" that took place in the Habsburg Empire in the decades following 1867 involved many actors, including state, municipality, ethnic, and confessional groups. The city council was generally dominated by one national group, a situation that was consequently challenged by one or more others.

The cities of Austria-Hungary qualify for multidisciplinary urban research and provide what is called agencement. Therefore, we must not only think spatially in order to understand how cities functioned in the Habsburg context but also look to interactions among individuals, groups, and urban space. The appropriation of urban space is a phenomenon well known in the Habsburg cities, precisely because of competing visions but we must look at them closely in order to escape from simplifying discourses: the idealization of the monarchy as a paradise of peaceful multiculturalism on the one hand, and the exaggeration of conflict on the other.

Industrialization and the extension of the railway network changed the face of cities. Urban planning was the result of these modifications. Buildings all over the monarchy were often the work of the same architects and therefore tended to look alike. Yet inhabitants had the impression that their city was unique and assigned different meanings to places. Civic patriotism equaled the already existing Landespatriotismus, with many activities aimed at uniting the citizens. Overall, cultural development needed actors as well as structures. But some of these initiatives reached beyond the local level. That is why modernization had a double effect: on one hand, it was used in a discursively to enhance the development of the city by stimulating competition, on the other hand it could lead to fragmentation and separation if the competition evolved into conflict. Democratization made the city a political stage. National activists sought to gain visibility in the urban space by demanding participation in political decision-making. The emergence of new forms of political expression and the extension of suffrage had a considerable impact.

Catherine Horel, Ph.D., Research Director at CNRS/CETOBAC, Paris. President of the International Committee for Historical Sciences (ICHS). She deals with Contemporary History of Central Europe, her work focuses on Habsburg Empire and Hungary, their socio-political structures, urban, military history and Jewish history. Among her latest publications; L'amiral Horthy. Régent de Hongrie, Paris, Perrin, 2014; De l’exotisme à la modernité. Un siècle de voyage français en Hongrie (1818-1910), Montrouge, éditions du Bourg, 2018; Histoire de la nation hongroise. Des premiers Magyars à Viktor Orbán, Paris, Tallandier, 2021; With Bettina Severin-Barboutie (eds.), Population Displacements and Multiple Mobilities in the Late Ottoman Empire, Leiden, Brill, 2023; Multicultural Cities of the Habsburg Empire 1880-1914. Imagined Communities and Conflictual Encounters, Budapest, CEU Press, 2023.

Carl H. Nightingale


This lecture calls on urban historians to stretch our concepts of city and the urban to account for the role of our built spaces in the amplification and retreat of human power over historical and geological time. It contextualizes 6,000 years of urban history within the comparatively gentle if still unpredictable ebbs and flows of geo-solar energy that, geologists tell us, characterized the 11,700-year-old Holocene Epoch of Earth Time. Within these conditions, humans gambled that amplifying our harvests of natural energy, and conveying large concentrations of water, food, fuel, plant material, animals, minerals, structures, and people into cities would give us the power to decrease our species’ vulnerability to natural catastrophe. With a few exceptions, cities, supplied by much larger urban hinterlands, have provided the crucial spatial base for all our most powerful institutions, social movements, and collective actions. Did this gamble with "the urban" pay off? The answer depended in part on the human and natural history of the primary sourcing grounds of energy that we tapped for city building and in part of the highly contingent history of people’s use of urban-amplified human power to transform human communities and the planet itself. By identifying inward flows of natural energy and outward flows of human power in cities across space and time, we can narrate urban history alongside the history of the Holocene in a way that accounts for the role of cities in the more recent irruptions of planetary human "superpower" that Earth Systems scientists propose to label the Anthropocene Epoch.

Carl H. Nightingale is professor of urban and world history in the Department of Transnational Studies at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He is Coordinator of the Global Urban History Project (GUHP). He deals with Global Urban History, World History, Urban Theory, Race and Critical Race Theory, South Asian History, South African History, Comparative Colonialism, Settler Colonial History, African American History and Urban Social Movements. He is the author of: Our Urban Planet Theory and History, Cambridge Elements in Global Urban History, Cambridge University Press, May 2024, (forthcoming), Earthopolis: a Biography of Our Urban Planet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022, Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012 (Co-winner of the Jerry Bentley Prize for Best Book in World History awarded by the World History Association and the American Historical Association, 2012) and On the Edge: A History of Poor Black Children and Their American Dreams, New York: Basic Books, 1993 (Runner-up for Harry Chapin Media Award for Best Book on Poverty in 1993).

Martin Jemelka


Is Ostrava a city? This question is asked by visitors to Ostrava as well as its residents. The invisible boundaries of the city dissolve into the industrial agglomeration and the remnants of the pre-industrial agricultural hinterland around Ostrava. The city itself is marked by a series of gaps, whether caused by wartime events, the wanton demolition of older buildings or the ruthless dictates of depleted mineral deposits. Like wrinkles, the arteries of public transport and the vanished towpaths of industrial plants cross the face of today's Ostrava. Thirty years ago the last coal mine in Ostrava closed and the city entered its post-industrial era, but it had been preparing for it since the mid-20th century. While tourists are looking for Jules Verne's Steel City in Ostrava, locals are looking for new jobs and reasons to stay in the city during the transition to a post-industrial city in the 21st century. What happened to Ostrava of the pre-industrial age, a serf town on the border of the Czech lands surrounded by ponds and pastures? How viable has the utopian project of manager and visionary Paul Kupelwieser to build the company town of Nové Vítkovice or the project of urban planner Camillo Sitte to build a modern urban district for the middle classes in the vicinity of the main railway station turned out to be? And why did the ambition of the planners and social engineers of state socialism to demolish the entire historic city centre and build a "City on the Moon", which grew twice – in Nová Poruba and Havířov? How many times should Ostrava have ceased to exist, had to change its face and played the role of a social laboratory and experimental field of the great historical processes of the 19th and 20th centuries... With you and for you will be asked by Ostrava native Martin Jemelka, who has been trying to understand Ostrava since his birth.

Martin Jemelka, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and university lecturer at CEVRO University Prague. His research focuses on the economic, social and urban history of the Bohemian Lands and Central Europe, the history of labour and modern religious history. Among his latest publications: Company Towns of the Baťa Concern: The European Chapter of Global Expansion, together with Ondřej Ševeček, Prague, Academia, 2016; co-author of Republic of Czechoslovakia (1918–1938), Prague, Nakladatelství Lidové noviny 2018; Faith and Unbelief in the Shadow of Factory Chimneys: The Religious Life of Industrial Workers in the Interwar Bohemian Lands (1918–1938), together with Jakub Štofaník, Prague, Academia, 2020; co-author of Spiritistic Media Drawing in Silesia, Prague, Arbor vitae, 2023.

Updated: 17. 05. 2024