Colin Arnaud, Alessandra Ferrighi & Nora Lafi: Transforming Cities, Negotiating Centrality: Markets and Civic Buildings in Comparative Perspective (XVth c. - XXth c.). An Introduction. [Abstract]

This special issue on central urban places in history discusses the spatial interactions between political and commercial centres. The narrative of western modernity we challenge here explains the increasing distance between prestigious political monuments and daily markets with the breakthroughs in hygiene of the last two centuries in western urbanism. On the one hand, the example of Venice shows that the hygiene politics of the 19th century were not that new and that they could also be used for a kind of social segregation. On the other hand, the model of the occidental city as political community and municipal institution must be questioned. For instance, Ottoman towns had developed institutions that represented local groups and which were linked with the markets and their actors. Western influence and colonisation destroyed those institutions, which also had consequences for the city centre. We propose the concept of vertical and horizontal centrality for use in discussions of the multiple dimensions of centrality.

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