Book Review: Shane Ewen, What is Urban History?

Last year I published a book review of What is Urban History? by Shane Ewen  in the Melbourne Historical Journal (vol. 43). Since then, reviews have appeared on the LSE blog and in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, amongst other places. Ewen was also recently interviewed on the excellent German based Global Urban History blog . Written for an Australian audience, my review is republished below.

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Ruminating on locked out cities

A couple of weeks ago an article I wrote with Professor Andrew May on urban regulation and specifically the lockout laws appeared in The Conversation. It provoked a strong reaction across social media and also in private correspondence. Our critics accused us of being libertarians due to our questioning of regulation and indifferent to the public health of the community. Others have appreciated the historical perspective that we offered. We treated the lockout laws as a lens through which to consider some of the nuances of how regulation actually operates in cities, suggesting that it invariably impacts urban life—whether for better or worse. The broader point was that

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Lockout laws repeat centuries-old mistake of denying value of cities as messy places

This article was originally published on The Conversation on 7 June 2016. Read the original article. By Andrew J. May, University of Melbourne and James Lesh, University of Melbourne Sydney’s lockout laws, as well as current and proposed restrictions in other Australian cities including Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle, are perhaps more about regulating people’s behaviours in cities than about liquor licensing. Such knee-jerk responses to tidy up the mess of complex issues belie society’s need for diversity. They also neglect culture’s debt to the manifold possibilities of social behaviour in urban space. Viewed as part of a broader historical pattern, such episodes of

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555 Collins Street, Melbourne

Every few months tensions flare at Collins Street, Melbourne as the latest development proposal is floated. Once again, the Victorian Planning Minister has intervened at Collins Street. This time to prevent the construction of an 82-storey skyscraper opposite the Rialto Towers at King and Collins Street. As journalist Clay Lucas relays, this is a story of political intrigue, a web involving developers, financiers, and both major political parties–quite typical for Collins Street. In this case, we Melburnians might stop for a moment to reflect on the past in order to look forward. After all, the skyscraper proposal–which echoes the Rialto Towers–is for Enterprise House at 555 Collins Street: an important address for Melbourne.

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A historical rumination on heritage advocacy

A few days ago, tumultuous events played out at the National Trust of Victoria, as reported in the Age. Whilst the Trust often appears in print over its activism, rarely does the internal discontents of the organisation spill onto the pages of the city’s newspapers. Over the past few weeks, absent from this blog, I have been exploring how the Trust and various other advocacy and professional organisations campaigned federal, state and local governments for heritage legislation in the 1970s. What interests me particularly about the ‘showdown’ at the National Trust last week is how there has been much reference to

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Past Liberal ‘Ministers for Cities’

Last Sunday the new Turnbull Liberal Government made Jamie Briggs Minister for Cities. This marks the Liberal Party’s first positive intervention into the Australian city in almost five decades. In excellent articles Liam Hogan and Alan Davies as well as Malcolm Farr and Michael Bleby have many aspects of this appointment covered. After spending the last few months in the urban archives, it feels similar to when Tom Uren became ‘Minister for Cities’ under Gough Whitlam. The mood amongst urbanists and the wider community is hopeful yet cautious. Particularly because the Federal Liberal Party are often perceived as urban agnostics. So Turnbull’s appointment of Briggs seemingly takes on an added level of importance: the Liberal Party, Welcome to the City. Yet

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The 25,000 Square Metre Rule: An Obituary

Without warning last Friday at midnight the Victorian Government did away with the ‘25,000 square metre rule’ as it has been for the past 20 years. Especially undemocratic, this rule empowered the planning minister to approve any building with over 25,000 square metres of floor space without recourse to the local council or the community. It has had dramatic irreversible long-term impacts for Melbourne. This blog reflects on its history.

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Innovation and Reaction: What Would a Minister for Cities Be Good For?

Calls for an Australian Minister for Cities are becoming louder. Groups such as the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, the Australian Institute of Architects, Planning Institute of Australia, Property Council, Engineers Australia, Green Building Council of Australia, Council of Capital City Lord Mayors and a cross-party parliamentary friendship group for better cities have endorsed the proposal. Various commentators agree, some of whom are members of those groups. A consensus appears to be emerging that the Australian city requires federal intervention.

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