University of Leicester eBulletin

International Urban Environment Conference

June 2002
No 133

Since the Rio summit Leicester's stature as an environment city has been high. Now historians at the Centre of Urban History, University of Leicester, are holding an international meeting to consider how cities responded to environmental problems over the last 200 years.

Over thirty international scholars with research interests ranging from the environmental degradation of Naples to the suburbanisation of the Montreal countryside will discuss issues relating to the "Urban Environment: Resources, Perceptions, Uses", from 27-30 June 2002. Participants form France, Germany, Italy, Finland, UK, Japan, Canada and the USA will attend.

The conference, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the British Academy and the German Historical Institute, London, continues a dialogue already set up in 2000 at a workshop at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France.

In Leicester the central focus will be on resources with more specific sessions dealing with water and green spaces as urban resources. Conflicts over pollution between residents and between different agencies will be discussed in a session on environmental justice. Another theme is the awkward relationship between cities and their regions. Can cities be 'imperialist' as they seek to control the resources in their regions? These and many more issues and problems will be discussed, taking a long run historical approach.

Dieter Schott, Professor in the History of Urban Planning, Department of Economic and Social History, said: "If cities in the Western World really want to meet the challenge of making urban civilization sustainable in the long run, of complying with the targets of Agenda '21, they need to develop a clear knowledge and understanding of the past. We need to understand, which assumptions and values have driven engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs, physicians and ordinary people to exploit resources of the city in a way which, while solving old hazards, such as  infectious diseases in the past, poses new problems for today and tomorrow, such as soil poisoning. Urban environmental history might help to put the essential adaptations of urban life and technology on a more secure footing."

Professor Schott is co-editor of a recent publication entitled "Cities and Catastrophes. Coping with Emergency in European History". Published in April 2002 by Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 3-631-37196-1, this comprises ten papers delivered at the 5th International conference on Urban History in Berlin in 2000.

Covering a period spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century, the book describes how cities have coped with natural disasters across Europe and North America, comparing the impacts of flood, disease, fire and earthquakes.

NOTE TO EDITORS:   Further information is available from Professor Dieter Schott, Professor in the History of Urban Planning, Economic and Social History, University of Leicester, telephone 0116 252 2766/2588, facsimile 0116 252 5081, email

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