PUblic REnaissance: Urban Cultures of Public Space between Early Modern Europe and the Present is a project funded by the Humanities in European Research area, involving colleagues from universities in Italy, Germany the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Over the course of three years our collaborative project will examine the urban cultures of public space in the early modern era, and to set this into dynamic dialogue with the recently invigorated discourse around the agency of public space in shaping contemporary events. We’re looking at five cities as our primary case studies, but expanding outwards to consider the public spaces that are at heart of many of our European cities today to show how these were shaped in the past, during the period roughly from 1400 to 1650 by the everyday actions of individuals. We have a strong focus on material culture – the built environment, but also objects in museum collections with which we are collaborating with each of the project teams. We will raise attention for a range of objects from city maps, to shop-signs, from cheap print to street furniture: the material culture of public space.
We’re using mapping in our work to give a sense of the physical place to our findings, soon to be revealed through this project website. We’ll also be launching a series of apps later this year so that visitors experience our findings through historically researched character-led walks.
The app and project website are titled ‘Hidden Cities’ to underline the overlooked histories we will reveal for Exeter, Valencia, Hamburg, Deventer and Trento. As the COVID-19 crisis has developed, we have been struck, as historians, by the analogies that resonate across the centuries about public space and pandemic, and which we hope to share a little with you in short film, linked below.
Public Space and Pandemics in Early Modern Europe