1st Edition

Writing the Materialities of the Past
Cities and the Architectural Topography of Historical Imagination

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after June 15, 2021
ISBN 9781138340244
June 15, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
288 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Writing the Materialities of the Past offers a close analysis of how the materiality of the built environment has been repressed in historical thinking since the 1950s. Author Sam Griffiths argues that the social theory of cities in this period was characterised by the dominance of socio-economic and linguistic-cultural models, which served to impede our understanding of time-space relationality towards historical events and their narration.

The book engages with studies of historical writing to discuss materiality in the built environment as a form of literary practice to express marginalised dimensions of social experience in a range of historical contexts. It then moves on to reflect on England’s nineteenth-century industrialisation from an architectural topographical perspective, challenging theories of space and architecture to examine the complex role of industrial cities in mediating social changes in the practice of everyday life.

By demonstrating how the authenticity of historical accounts rests on materially emplaced narratives, Griffiths makes the case for the emancipatory possibilities of historical writing. He calls for a re-evaluation of historical epistemology as a primarily socio-scientific or literary enquiry and instead proposes a specifically architectural time-space figuration of historical events to rethink and refresh the relationship of the urban past to its present and future. Written for postgraduate students, researchers and academics in architectural theory and urban studies, Griffiths draws on the space syntax tradition of research to explore how contingencies of movement and encounter construct the historical imagination.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Architectural Topography of Historical Imagination

I. Definitions

II. Crossing the Rubicon

III. Architectural topographic descriptions

IV. Figurational contingencies

Part I: Contingency in the Historiographies of the English Reformation, French Revolution and Era of the Industrial Revolution in England

Chapter One: Contingency and Artifice

I. Definitions

II. Events of the English Reformation

III. Events of the French Revolution

IV. Events from the period of the Industrial Revolution in England

Chapter Two: Encounter and utterance

I. Definitions

II. Events of the English Reformation

III. Events of the French Revolution

IV. Events from the period of the Industrial Revolution in England

Chapter Three: Milieu and Movement

I. Definitions

II. The city as ‘environment’

III. The repression of encounter field in the historiography of the English Reformation, French Revolution and era of the Industrial Revolution in England

i. Environments of the English Reformation

ii. Environments of the French Revolution

iii. Environments of the Industrial Revolution

IV. The abbreviation, abridgement and metaphorical sublimation of the encounter field

Chapter Four: Figure and event

I. Definitions

II. Spatial Stories

III. Maps and mapping

IV. The figures of events

Part II: Writing History as a City

Chapter Five: Proximity and distance
Identifying narrative figures in the architecural topographic sequences of archetypal stories

I. Definitions

II. Social stories

III. Architectural topographic sequences and toponemes

IV. Narrative figures as architectural topographic sequences

Chapter Six: The Revolutionary Encounter Field: Paris c.1789-94 and Other Stories
How Thomas Carlyle, Simon Schama and Hilary Mantel ‘re-people’ the past

I. Definitions

II. Imagining the urban encounter field

III. Contrasting strategies of architectural topographic description in three narratives of the French Revolution

i. Prefiguring the Parisian encounter field in Carlyle, Schama and Mantel

ii. Mass and momentum in Carlyle’s French Revolution

iii. Paris as a cultural "melting pot" in Schama’s Citizens

iv. Contingent dialogues in Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety

IV. Embodying the past in Carlyle, Schama and Mantel

Chapter Seven: Recollection and Re-enactment
Embodying nineteenth-century Sheffield in Leader’s Reminiscences (1875)

I. Definitions

II. A history of ‘small details’

III. Embodying Sheffield in the text

IV. Narrative figures of ‘memory lane’

i. Going back

ii. Coming forward

iii. Looking closer

iv. Lasting impressions

iv Reveries

Chapter Eight: ‘Morphologies of feeling’
Contingency and the experience of social change

I. Definitions

II. ‘The passing of Merrie England’

III. Toponemic disturbances

IV. ‘Feeling the change’: reflections on contingency

Appendix A: A notation for the architectural topographic sequencing of texts

Appendix B: Synopsis of Cinderella

Appendix C: Additional architectural topographic sequences from Cinderella

Appendix D: Search terms and categories used in toponemic analysis



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Sam Griffiths is Associate Professor in Spatial Cultures in the Space Syntax Laboratory at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. His research interests focus on theories and methods for studying the historical relationship between people and built environments, the spatial culture of industrial cities and space syntax as an interdisciplinary research perspective in the humanities and social sciences. He has published a number of articles and book chapters on these topics. He is co-editor, with Alexander von Lünen of Spatial Cultures: Towards a New Social Morphology of Cities published by Routledge in 2016.