International Commission for the History of Towns: Mission and objectives

For some 8000 years towns have shaped human lives. Nowadays, more than half of the world population lives in urban areas which greatly impact on lifestyle and mentalities. The city has always been a centre of technological, institutional and spiritual changes which triggered the evolution of society, even of the whole of humanity. Urban historiography emerged early on, and urban history is now a specialized branch of the historical sciences.

The International Commission for the History of Towns (ICHT) was founded at the International Congress for Historical Sciences at Rome in 1955 with the aim of facilitating contacts between urban historians and building up a number of research tools. Up to now the Commission has issued the Elenchus fontium historiae urbanae, national bibliographies on urban history, and historical atlases of towns. Following common criteria, these tools facilitate a comparative approach to urban history in time and space. This is one of the main aims of the ICHT. The ICHT now also intends to offer research reports which have been elaborated on a geographical and/or thematic basis.

The annual meetings of the Commission include a scientific conferences focusing on special themes, each of which is pursued over a period of three to five years with a view to promoting new research integrating results and methods from a variety of disciplinary approaches. The conferences routinely include contributions from external scholars who add a valuable dimension to the proceedings.

This innovative and multidisciplinary approach is facilitated by the organization of the ICHT. Between one and four scholars represent at the Commission the research activity in urban history of their country. The ICHT also intends to take great care that its members, who are co-opted, represent all periods, all geographical areas and all fields within urban history through their individual specialization. The ICHT is affiliated to the International Committee of Historical Sciences and takes part in its five-year congresses.

Michel Pauly

(see Newsletter n. 29, 2008)