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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Politiek, Media en Natievorming Democracy, policy, knowledge. City government in transition, 1870-1940


Postdoc project 1:

Democracy, policy, knowledge. City government in transition, 1870-1940 (dr. D.J. Wolffram)

The aim of this project is a synthesis of the research project as a whole. It hopes to provide a new interpretation of local government in an international perspective of comparison, transfer and diffusion, from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the Second World War. It links political history with urban and administrative history, political theory, and international relations in a comparative perspective.

The project discusses the urban question in terms of political aims, institutional performance and changes in democratic control, participation and public trust, both as a consequence of enlargement of the electorate and as a consequence of the growing importance of specialised knowledge. It examines the increasing importance of local bureaucracies in dealing with the urban question. It takes into account political controversies accompanying the urban question, but also the impact on the functioning of democracy and the complex relation between the polity and the administrative reality behind it.

Postdoc project 2:

Municipal reformers in the Netherlands, 1870-1914 (dr. C.A.L. Smit)

The urban problems arising from urbanisation and industrialisation in the second half of the 19th century appears to be rather similar all over the western world. To fight these problems, diverse initiatives were undertaken in various cities, initiated by a group of social concerned men and women. Although these initiatives differed, the aim was generally the same: forming a community with a high moral standard, in which everyone could practice their (social) citizenship in reasonable circumstances.

In this research the focus lies on the group of Dutch reformers that developed initiatives in Dutch cities to improve the practical and moral circumstances for the workers and for the city as a whole. Their aims to ‘raise’ the workers, by creating decent moral and practical conditions, providing opportunities for personal development and stimulating a healthy and industrious style of living will be examined. Another focus will be on the sources of inspiration for this elite of social reformers, as they actively looked across municipal and international borders to find kindred sprits who presented solutions for urban problems at conferences, exhibitions, model villages and individual projects.

PhD project:

The modern city in the making. Local government and local democracy within an international network (dr. S. Couperus)

The aim of the PhD-project is to connect the development of local democracy and local government to the growing complexity of the urban question and its solutions at the beginning of the twentieth century. This project is concerned with the tension between the development of local democracy and the solutions to social and administrative problems, using as a starting point the idea and practise of urban governance in the Netherlands with strong reference to Amsterdam during the interwar period.

The urban question was not confined to national borders. The approaches to the urban problems in Amsterdam will be analysed within the context of international orientation. Both social and administrative reform were inspired and infused by the international exchange of municipal knowledge, human capital and the climate of transnational municipalism.

The process of trial and error which accompanied local decision making resulted in an almost continuous reflection on the organisation of the municipal fabric. On the one hand municipal directors, highly educated civil servants and meddling scientists carried out an idea of rational and technological progress. On the other hand political propagandists, administrators, councilors and aldermen propagated the primacy of democratic progress. Both ‘technocrats’ and ‘democrats’ were practically and mentally bounded to the inflexible legislative framework in the Netherlands - employed by liberal constitutionalists in the nineteenth century. The separation and rapprochement of local bureaucracy and local democracy, i.e. the dynamics of urban governance, duringthe interwar period is a point of particular interest in this research.

Laatst gewijzigd:31 mei 2017 14:24