Under this headline, the centre has since its establishment in 2001 done research on the economic centrality of the towns in historical time. The theoretical starting point was mainly Walter Christaller’s and von Thünen’s classical theories. Additional theories have also been used such as the institutional angle from S.R. Epstein et. al. The research concentrated especially on towns as centres for trade, service and production. The main results are presented by Søren Bitsch Christensen in his contributions to the book Den klassiske købstad (The classical town) and to Erhvervshistorisk Årbog 2006 (The yearbook for Business History). The research results are integrated within the database “By og opland” (Town and Surrounding area). Different aspects of the towns’ economic life have also laid the foundation for several theses, such as Jeppe Klok Due’s thesis about the early industrial development in the province of Denmark. Parts of his thesis are published in Erhvervshistorisk Årbog 2008 (The Yearbook for Business History). Michael Bruus took a very different subject matter in his thesis where he described how the infrastructure for boat traffic in the same period was improved through the enlargement and modernisation of harbours. His thesis is published as Michael Levy Bruus: I sikker havn. Danske købstadshavnes modernisering 1798-1868 (Maritim Kontakt 29, 2007, s. 7-102). (In a safe Harbour: The modernisation of Danish town ports).
In 2005, the centre was asked by The Historical Society for Herning Municipality to help writing and publish three volumes about the history of Herning. Unfortunately the plans never materialised, but the centre managed to create a bibliography and a register for the local archive. Furthermore, Lene Jensen, Frank Bache Andersen and Marie Bebe all wrote theses on the different parts of Herning’s history.
Each volume of Danish Urban Studies has an introduction which gives an overview of Danish urban development during that particular period as well as a comprehensive overview of the Danish urban writing concerning the period. However, a short bibliography of Danish urban writing can be found here. Furthermore, Søren Bitsch Christensen and senior researcher Jørgen Mikkelsen from the National Archives have written an overview of medieval and early modern Danish urban development to Urban History.
Many of the centre’s students have written about the development of quarters in the modern city. In this instance the modern city is defined as the industrial town and the period until today. The starting point for these studies has typically been an analysis of the end of the traditional town morphology with market square, adjoining roads, and mixed residential areas for both rich and poor people and an analysis of how this morphology was replaced by the modern town with homogenous quarters, industrial districts, business districts etc. The first study was Jeppe Norskov’s and Jens Toftgaard Jensen’s book Købstadens metamorfose (The Metamorphosis of the Town). Among social topographic master’s theses one can mention Jes Rønnow Lungskov’s thesis Kvarterudvikling og byudvikling i Vejle (The Formation of Quarters and Urban Development in the Town of Vejle), from which parts have been published in Gullkrog – et Vejlekvarters historie. One can also mention Frank Bache Andersen’s thesis Herning fra tinghus til jernbane, Byens udvikling belyst gennem tilgang af parceller, byfunktioner og befolkning 1827-1877 (Herning from Courthouse to Railway). The subject is also popular as a theme for student papers, and many of the best papers have been published. For instance Morten Oddershede: Mølleengen: et indflytterkvarter i Århus 1925 (Mølleengen: A Quarter in Aarhus for new Tenants 1925) and Jeppe Norskov: Trøjborg - et indflytterkvarter i Århus omkring 1910 (Trøjborg - a quarter in Aarhus for new tenants around 1910).
The meeting with urban culture and the life in the modern town or “the industrial town” belongs to one of most seminal social experiences in our modern history. Naturally, this subject is a part of research of The Danish Centre for Urban History. The most important study is Mette Tapdrup Mortensen’s PhD dissertation Et hjem i byen? Pensionatet som urbant mikrokosmos 1880-1960'erne (A Home in the City? The Boarding House as an Urban Microcosm, 1880 to the 1960s).
With economic support from Aarhus Municipality, the Realdania Foundation and Kulturarvsstyrelsen (The Heritage Agency of Denmark), the Danish Centre for Urban History wrote a historical report about Aarhus Freight Yard Station in 2008. The report concluded with a number of recommendations on how the site’s historical values could be preserved. The report Århus Godsbanegård - historie og kulturarvsanbefalinger (Aarhus Freight Yard Station – History and Cultural Heritage Recommendations) was written by Kristian Buhl Thomsen and Jeppe Klok Due and was edited by Søren Bitsch Christensen.
In 2010, the centre was given the opportunity to transform the centre’s interest in industrial history into a publication about 27 preserved industrial heritage sites in Aarhus. The publication discusses preservation and provides examples on how re-use has given new life to old buildings. The starting point was a private project by senior researcher Kenn Tarbensen from The Danish Business Archive. From the centre, research assistant Kristian Buhl Thomsen took part in the project, and Søren Bitsch Christensen was the editor of the book. The project was supported by Aarhus Municipality, and the book was published with the support of Aarhus Urban Historical Foundation.
Urban planning is a natural subject for urban historical studies. The subject allows the researcher to take a closer look on the interaction between idea and reality. The subject makes it visible how towns develop, who has the necessary influence, and which forces have been dominant at different times. During the years the centre has cooperated with Byplanhistorisk Udvalg under Dansk Byplanlaboratorium (the Town-planning Committee under Danish Laboratory for Urban Planning), which has lead to joint seminars and publications, for instance about urban historical cartography and about the writing of the modern town’s history. An important contribution is also Jeppe Norskov Stokholm’s PhD dissertation Den moderne byplanlægnings fødsel i Danmark 1860 til 1920 (The birth of the modern town planning in Denmark, 1860 to 1920). Other contributions are theses, where Kristian Buhl Thomsen’s thesis Sådan skabtes det moderne Viborg - En analyse af byplanlægningen, boligudviklingen og bosætningsmønstrene 1938-1974 (How the modern Viborg was created – An analysis of the urban planning, the development of housing and the settlement patterns, 1938-1974) deserves mentioning. It has been published in Fra Viborg-egnen 2009.
Related to the subject is also Peter Dragsbo’s book Hvem opfandt parcelhuskvarteret? Forstaden har en historie (The invention of Suburbia), of which the centre was a co-publisher. Also Søren Bitsch Christensen’s article “Branding Bernhard” in the book Århus i verden (Aarhus in the world) should be mentioned.
By the end of 2008, Esbjerg Municipality hired the centre to edit and co-publish a three-volume edition of the history of Ribe – the oldest town in Denmark – as part of the celebration of the town’s 1300 years anniversary in 2010. On the local level, the centre cooperated with Esbjerg Town Historical Archive and The South West Jutland Museums. The books, which were published in June and November 2010, follow a thematic division. See the pojects official site here.
In the beginning of 2011, the Faculty of Humanities at Aarhus University provided Kristian Buhl Thomsen and the centre with the funding for a three year PhD scholarship. The purpose is to analyse “The strategies and ideologies of the Danish slum clearance policy and urban renewal policy 1939-1990”. In the PhD project, Kristian Buhl Thomsen will analyse the ideological and political struggles, which formed the policy in a number of Danish towns from the adoption of the first Danish slum clearance law in 1939 to the new urban renewal strategy in 1990. The thesis is that two main groups marked the development: 1) The modernists, who focused on economic and functional considerations and saw total slum clearance of town quarters as a way to get rid of the poor social- and housing conditions of the time. 2) On the other side, the romanticists who focussed on the architectural and aesthetical potentials of town quarters and preferred housing improvements and preservation. The romanticists slowly gained ground with their gentler paradigm and were triumphant as a new law introduced the term “urban renewal” in 1983. The scholarship will last until January 2014. See more information in Danish here.
The centre participates in a European research co-operation on urban development after 1960 under the leadership of Lars Nilsson from the Institute of Urban History in Stockholm. The co-operation is a network, which meet at international conferences to present studies from their own countries. From the centre, Søren Bitsch Christensen participates. Another contribution to the focus on post-industrial Danish towns is Sebastian Fogh Nordentoft’s thesis about the deindustrialisation of Danish Towns 1960-2001.
In 2006 The Danish Centre for Urban History and the Section for Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology at Aarhus University took the initiative to highlight the newest knowledge of fortified towns. It led to a conference 14-15 September 2006 at Moesgaard, Aarhus University. The result from the conference will soon be published as Danish Urban Studies 5.
The student – now MA – Jeppe Ravn was the one behind the conference idea, which was also arranged by associate professor Jan Kock. The conference received economic support from Kulturarvsstyrelsen (The Heritage Agency of Denmark) and The Aarhus University Research Foundation. The coming book will be a supplement to the four other books about the medieval towns (2004), the classical towns (2005), the modern towns (2006) and the towns during absolutism (2008) published in the series Danish Urban Studies.
Chronological and thematically frame:
In this book, the Renaissance is seen as the time between Reformation and Absolutism, which in Denmark is between 1536-1660. But the term Renaissance should not be taken too literally. The purpose of the book is to study a specific urban historical phenomenon – the fortified and militarised towns of the Renaissance and their predecessor and partly their successors. Most of the towns were originally market towns and continued as such, but a good part of the towns had others and more extensive functions with military aspects as the most important. The book analyses the topographic, technological and social effects of the militarisation of the urban society during the Renaissance. The book consists of studies from the present Danish kingdom, the duchies Schleswig and Holstein, Norway and Skåne - the former Danish part of present-day Sweden.
In the Middle Ages most of the towns had been surrounded by ramparts, moats or other fortifications, but during the Renaissance the defence of the realm was concentrated on a selected number of strongly fortified towns. Thus the old ramparts of the other towns were torn down. The fortified towns were given a stronger military character than the medieval towns. One reason was to protect against the new firearms. Secondly, wars were now characterised by conquest expeditions, which brought enemy troops into the country. It presented the towns with new military challenges. Some of the chapters in the book discuss the question, whether this “outer” militarisation was accompanied by an “inner” militarisation in the form of the military duties of the citizens and their dedication of military attitudes.
On the ideological level, the ideal town could no longer be separated from the ideal defence of the town. In some ways it was not a new thing. Peter Clark describes how town walls and cathedrals since the early Middle Ages had been key markers for European urbanity. The new element was how these two factors were fused together in the term “urban planning”. In the book this is described by Hans Henrik Appel: “More than anything it was the demand following the bastion system, that led to the new regular, cogent urban plans; and it was perhaps the architectural element, which – in some cases quicker than in others – most consequently spread all over Europe during the 16th and 17th century.” In the Danish kingdom there are examples of Italian and Dutch inspired Renaissance urban planning. However, the picture is directly misleading if the other parts of the realm are left out.
Danish research of fortresses of this period has for a long time been insufficient and its results are often of no current interest. This is especially true for the research concerning the towns’ fortifications. There has not been published a general overview of the urban fortresses of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance since the works by Vilhelm Lorenzen and Otto Norn in the 1930s, 1940s and the early 1950s. However, over the past decade not least archaeological findings have generated new results. The book therefore consists of contributions from historians as well as archaeologists and researchers with other backgrounds.
In 2003 and 2004 the centre founded and coordinated a research network named “Urban space and the spacious urban society in a historical perspective” with the support from National Research Council. The urban culture during Absolutism was one of the main themes, and several studies were started. Tine Bro, for instance, wrote a prize dissertation about social foundations in the Danish towns, (her thesis can be seen here). The two main studies of the network have not yet been published. The first study is senior researcher and archivist Jørgen Mikkelsen’s manuscript about the development of urbanisation and urban systems in Europe until 1800. The second study is Søren Bitsch Christensen’s book about the Danish civic militias 1500-1900, on which he is currently still researching. Some of the sources and other materials can be seen in the database Borgervæbninger 1550-1870.