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Urban and Governance Theories in 19th century Britain and Italy. A debate in commemoration of Carlo Cattaneo

A debate for the 150-years commemoration of Carlo Cattaneo (1801-1869), Italian philosopher and theorist of federalism
With Michele Campopiano and Robert Morris

The event will focus on municipal government and its place in political theory and practice in Italy and Britain in the 19th century, also considering its implications for contemporary political theory and practice. Cattaneo was very receptive of British political ideas, and he is an interesting example of the strong connections between these two countries.

The British were amongst the first to experience large scale and rapid urbanization. Britain faced this with a system of governance in which power was concentrated through the crown in parliament. There was no tradition of city states as in Italy and no hints of the diffusion of power advocated by Cattaneo, as well as little sense of urban theory. 

More to Cattaneo’s taste was the growth of a specific associational culture. Towns and Cities had a growing list with open practice ranging from Mechanics Institutions to Gardening Societies. The outcome was a powerful middle class culture; a robust local urban infrastructure; a bridge between the middling classes and a skilled working class; a bridge for change and challenge – notably a route by which women entered public life.

Discussions on municipal governments were closely related to the historiographical culture of the time, and Cattaneo expressed his ideas in particular in an essay on the “City as ideal principle of Italian histories”. This event will link historiographical debates to modern discussions on federalism and local governance, carrying the comparison between Italy and Britain till our time.

This event will be held in English.


Michele Campopiano is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the University of York. He studied at the University of Pisa and at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, where he also obtained his PhD. Before moving to the University of York, he taught economic and social history in Utrecht. His research interests include cultural memory, historiography, but also the relationship between political and economic history. He focuses in particular on the history of Italian cities. He is the author and editor of several books and articles and he is preparing the critical edition of the essay by Carlo Cattaneo “La città considerata come principio ideale delle istorie italiane” (“City considered as ideal principle of Italian histories”) for the Edizioni della Normale.

R J Morris is Professor Emeritus in the School of History Edinburgh University where he taught for over forty years. Research interests include class formation, urban conflict and urbanisation. He edited People and Society in Scotland, vol.2, with Hamish Fraser. Publications include Class, Sect and Party. The Making of the British Middle Class: Leeds, 1820-50; Men, Women and Property in England, 1780-1870, and Scotland 1907. The Many Scotlands of Valentine and Sons, photographers. “Retirement” is devoted to writing about the landscape and history of Scottish and Irish towns and growing historic varieties of apples in Berwickshire. Current research involves the rebuilding of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the nineteenth century and civil and uncivil society in nineteenth century Belfast. He was President of the European Association of Urban Historians, 2000-2002 and is President of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland.


  • Organizzato da: ICI London