Urban Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to the history and culture of cities. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“Urban planning and the new faces of the cities were to some extent Western, due to the adoption of universal patterns (sanitation, entertainment, transportation, etc.), but primarily Austro-Hungarian because of local influences.”—Multicultural Cities of the Habsburg Empire.
“The ‘fight for the city’ that took place in the Habsburg Empire involved many actors, including state, municipal, ethnic, and confessional groups. Conceptions of the city as an ‘urban assemblage,’ are very useful to our endeavor.”
“Buildings all over the monarchy were often the work of the same architects and therefore tended to look alike. There were similar theaters, schools, and ring streets. But is it true that all Habsburg cities resembled each other?”
“The networks generated by encounters between mayors and civil servants, and exchanges of knowledge on technical issues created a ‘world of municipalities’. As a result of their lobbying, they obtained from the government the enactment of a law that provided financial support to enforce urban development.”

“The stylistic incompatibility of elements standing next to each other give Belgrade its unique character.”—An Older and More Beautiful Belgrade.
“Four Belgrades—the Balkan hub, the cosmopolitan-bourgeois city, the dream of cosmopolitan socialism, and the latest Belgrade of hybrid consumerist entertainment—coexist and lean on one another, intermingling and fighting each other to define the future.”
“When reading the recent urban layers, one should consider all the elements: the war, extreme redistribution of wealth, pauperization, lobotomy by mass media, the behavioral models offered by soap operas, the criminalization of government, and many more.”
“The original Požeška Street was brought about by urbanistic thinking when people still believed in certain principles and a social ideology. However, adaptation occurred in a time that lacked specific thoughts about cities or houses. American and European postmodern architecture was widely discussed in Serbia but understood and replicated quite superficially.”

Titles with an urban or architectural focus, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

Twelve essays on the social, functional and symbolic dimensions of urban space in today’s world. They provide a thorough exploration of the nature and significance of social space and particular aspects of its distribution in today’s urban spaces and the various factors that are competing for it.

“What was the right dose of the ‘national,’ in a city built by different nationalities? Soviet architects visiting Lviv in 1940 were trying to find answers to these questions”—Lviv and Wroclaw.
“A policy of Polonization led, through strategies adopted by the communist regime, to the forgetting of the recent German (as well as Jewish) past, and a culture of silence on the non-Polish past and inhabitants of the city.”
“With its architecture, numerous railway stations, and ‘bad neighborhoods,’ Wrocław had the attributes of a metropolis, and an urban purgatory that attracted the dregs of society and served as a magnet for filmmakers.”
“The need to ‘Ukrainianize’ the urban space and produce a compact, unified narrative of Ukrainian history of Lviv is understood by anyone who knows Ukraine’s struggles for autonomy and independence.”
“The late- and post-communist era brought a rediscovery of urban localism that could be even larger than the newly independent Polish or Ukrainian nation.”

A race to develop a modern city in Eastern Europe, often a capital city. The cities described in this volume range from Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Moscow, Wilno, Warsaw, and Kyiv in the north to Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia, and Athens in the south.

A far-ranging survey of housing in Budapest from the late 19th century to the start of World War II, focusing on two groups of contemporary society: the upper middle class and the working class, to present their homes, domestic culture and attitudes.

“Jože Plečnik had a reputation as one of Otto Wagner’s most talented and innovative protégés, and he had been involved with the Secession since 1901.”
“The 1919 design contest for a new ‘cathedral’ (chrám) for Prague, as Czechoslovakia’s first open architectur­al competition, was a major cultural event in the new state, a preview of the possible directions of independent Czech design.”
After winning the contest for the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Vinohrady district, Jože Plečnik was in charge of restoration of Prague Castle. The story of how this ancient citadel was transformed after World War I from a neglected, run-down relic into the seat of power for independent Czechoslovakia—and the symbolic center of democratic postwar Europe.

“Early modern urban discourse is a daunting subject, especially when one considers that much has survived from the enormous corpus of writing about cities from the later Middle Ages on.”—on the evolution of urban discourse.
“It is the duty of the city not only to make good laws but also to build worthy sites, for the ornament of the city.”—decreed the city council of Bologna in 1439.
“Venice did not get the recognition it deserved for its singular contribution to the history of urban aesthetics until Ruskin put its stones into the title of what may have been the most influential book written about a city since St. Augustine.”
“The Spanish Inquisition was an extremely urban institution. It paid very little if any attention to the 90% of Spaniards who lived in the countryside.”
“How to finish a Gothic building in classical style was a circle that failed to square, as a walk past the (still) incomplete facade in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna today makes immediately clear.”

Urban themes in a variety of books on the CEU Press backlist:

“After World War II, the program of modern architecture dating from the interwar years, identified first and fore­most with the CIAM (Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne) and the name Le Corbusier, gained widespread influence in modern urban planning, architecture, and civil engineering on both sides of the Iron Curtain.”—Making Sense of Dictatorship.
“Postwar urban planning changed the face of British towns far more dramatically than even the German air offensive had.”
“Most, a city planned by progressive young architects and urban planners was a leading hope of Czechoslovak modernists.”
“Residents felt that the long, straight streets divided people rather than bringing them together, due to their great width. The streets created an impression of ‘being stretched out’, compared to the intimate nature of the old city where one could move around the square and one had almost everything in one place.”
“The town of Most, once the pride of socialist Czechoslovakia, eventually became its disgrace.”

Socially engaged public art projects dealing with environmental problems and the ecological degradation of urban areas in communist Croatia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia under communism.”

“In Doris Lessing’s fiction the city is portrayed as a transnational space dissociated from nostalgic memories.”—on the transnational aspects of contemporary literature.
“London is depicted as a transnational city, but this transnationalism is no longer characterized by an engagement with the past: transitory multi-ethnic locations such as the Tube, Heathrow Airport and the New Café offer performative spaces for female characters to explore their subjectivities before embarking on an adventure elsewhere, or continuing their journeys home.”
“For Virginia Woolf, mobility represented the quintessence of modern life. In particular, it was urban mobility that occupied Woolf’s creative mind, as she sought to capture its dynamic, fleeting, and changeable nature.”

Documenting the physical aspects of the lives of Hungarian Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Descriptions and photos of Jewish neighborhoods, palaces and villas in Budapest, houses, apartments, and mansions in provincial towns and villages.

The travails of rebuilding the city after the 1878 flood illustrate how far the city and its Jewish community had developed during the intervening century and a half. The interplay between them indicated how tightly woven Miskolc Jewry was into the fabric of city and county administration.

“As coffee houses sprung up about the towns, cobblers, tailors, tradesmen and tradeswomen, teamsters, all the way down to the last riffraff would head for coffee. For six copper groschen one could get a cup of coffee with milk and sugar.”—broadcast from the eighteenth century.
“When doors were loose-fitting, water or mud always found their way into the carriage, getting the feet of those sitting inside just as wet as if they had been pedestrians. Such instances occurred particularly in Warsaw along the muddy and pot-holed streets which, for a long time, excepting Krakowskie Przedmieście and the Old Town, were not paved and everywhere were full of pits and puddles.”
“The manor houses of both lesser lords and the wealthy nobility were for the most part built of wood and were of one or two stories, enhanced on the outside by decorations, galleries, porticos, and porches.”

“The early Russian state could rely, in the shape of the populous trading centers of Kiev and Novgorod (which served as the meeting points of the Byzantine-Baltic and Arab), on an urban basis unknown in the West before the reconquest of the Mediterranean.”—The Historical Construction of National Consciousness.
“The free and autonomous civitates were differentiated both in their size and in their subordinate importance from western towns; already at this time there is a burgeoning of that peculiar half-agrarian, half-industrial ‘market-town’ form of urbanization, the oppidum.”
“The dissolution of ‘public authority’ and of political sovereignty in general encouraged the establishment of urban culture forming a decidedly Western model, the autonomous city. Enclaved between agrarian economies regulated by different legal and political authorities, Western towns took up elements of sovereignty into their own local entities. They also developed a new economic formula—that of the autonomous urban economy.”

“The Western Middle Ages stemmed from peasant societies, which was markedly different from Antiquity that was based on urbanity.”—The Rise of Comparative History.
“If you study the French towns of the Middle Ages when the urban renaissance is taking place, you will try to comprehend in one sweep two objects almost totally dissimilar, except in name. The ancient Mediterranean towns on the one hand, the oppida inhabited by the great men, the ‘knights’; on the other, towns inhabited above all by merchants.”
“The town was still identified with the concept of community, of a corporative association of free and equal citizens. The ideal type for this was originally a conjuratio, a sworn union. But towns like these exist only in the Christian West.”
“The Yugoslavs had no particular fondness for urban life in the Middle Ages and did not found any significant towns. They dealt with stockbreeding and agriculture, as well as built pretty and spacious villages. Their taste for urban life started to develop only two centuries ago.“

Some of the older titles are out of print nevertheless bookshops or online distributors may get you print-on-demand copies, and most CEU Press titles are sold in digital version at the major electronic distributors.