Our research group approaches the city from a broad comparative perspective, taking European and non-European worlds into consideration from a long diachronic viewpoint. In line with the central RICH question: ‘How and under which conditions do different kinds of loyalties, communities and categories of people emerge and disappear?’, we study the similarities and differences between these areas in terms of loyalties, the reciprocal relationships between different cities, cities and rulers, and cities and the countryside, and the functioning of networks. The city has been an engine of innovation throughout European history. The formation of loyalties and identities and of narrative traditions that give shape to the city, are important starting points for our research.
The political scientist Benjamin Barber proposes that cities offer “the best new forces of good governance”. This thesis underscores the relevance of our research into the city. We seek to question this statement from historical, cultural and comparative perspectives. It is worth considering how city councils nowadays regard marketing as one of their tasks, for ‘selling’ their city. To do this, they require information about the social role and cultural knowledge of their city. Historical research can play a crucial role in providing this information.
The fruitful collaboration between cities and universities in this field of research has resulted in the creation of a chair for the history of Nijmegen. On an individual basis, we collaborate with urban research groups in Ghent, Antwerp and Amsterdam. Meanwhile, we aim to collaborate with one or more groups on a more structural basis in the organisation of conferences and the preparation of publications.