69407 - Comparative History of European Cities

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Rosa Smurra
  • Credits: 8
  • SSD: M-STO/01
  • Language: Italian
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Expert in Social and Cultural Education (cod. 5726)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the classes, the student: - will have made his or her own the concept of the city through the transformations that have occurred over time; - will have acquired a comparative view between Italian and European cities through specific examples; - will acquire an awareness of the value of urban history in the framework of the development of European society. - will be able to grasp the most important institutional and urban transformations that have characterized European cities; - will be able to analyze satellite images of conurbations in order to identify their phases of development from antiquity to the present day; - will be able to better understand the reasons for the formation of the cultural and social entity constituted by Europe and the connective tissue that holds it together, of which cities are a relevant part.

Course contents

Classes start in September 2023.

Europe is a continent with a high urban density and population; understanding its historical dynamics, starting from the ancient urbanization, helps to better understand the complexities of contemporary reality.

The course is divided into two parts.
The first part (general part) aims to provide a comparative picture of the main stages of the formation and transformation of urban settlements. By means of the analysis of some case studies that can make use of different types of sources (archaeological, literary, documentary, etc.), this part aims to propose a critical vision of a long and complex reality of European urban history, sometimes misunderstood, which has deeply influenced the formation of our culture and our institutions.
The second part, or monographic part, is devoted to the history of women's condition in medieval cities. Starting from the analysis of documentary sources produced by medieval governments, the processes and policies that enabled or marginalized the role of women in society and the productive world are highlighted.

The general part includes a series of classes dedicated to the European historical framework ( 1st-15th centuries), structured according to the following thematic frameworks:
Roman Empire and urbanization of Europe
From Pagan to Christian city
People on the move: European ethnogenesis
Roman barbarian kingdoms and the finding of capital cities
Europe and the Carolingian Empire
Islamic presence in Europe
Feudal Europe and local authorities
Papacy, Empire and Cities in the central centuries of the Middle Ages
European monarchies and cities
Forms of power between municipal and stately urban realities
Urban economy and society in the late Middle Ages

The focus of the monographic part is on the following topics:
Sources for the study of women's history in medieval cities.
Forms of inclusion or exclusion of women in medieval urban societies
Women and the urban economy in the Middle Ages


For the general part, one textbook among the following:

- Introduzione alla storia medievale, a cura di G. Albertoni, S. Collavini, T. Lazzari, Bologna, Il Mulino 2015

- P. Golinelli, Breve storia dell'Europa medievale, Pàtron Editore, Bologna 2004

- P. Grillo, Storia medievale. Italia, Europa, Mediterraneo, Ediz. Mylab. Pearson 2019

- G. Piccinni, I mille anni del Medioevo, Ediz. Mylab. Pearson 2018

- A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, UTET Università, 2016

For those wishing to investigate the sources for the study of medieval history:

F. Senatore, Medioevo: istruzioni per l'uso, Ediz. Mylab. Pearson 2022

For the monographic part:

M. P. Zanoboni, Donne al lavoro nell’Italia e nell’Europa medievali (secc. XIII-XV), Milano, Jouvence, 2016
R. Smurra, Cittadinanza femminile a Bologna alla fine del XIII secolo: il contributo delle fonti fiscali, «STUDI MEDIEVALI», 2019, LX, pp. 59 - 85 


Teaching methods

Teaching is by a combination of lectures and seminars.The active involvement of students is strongly recommended.

Assessment methods

Students will be asked three open-ended questions aimed at verifying their knowledge of urban history topics, as taught during the term and available in the Bibliography. Among the indicators that will contribute to the evaluation there are the knowledge of the topics discussed in the lessons and contained in the Bibliography; the property of language and the ability to compare the evolutionary historical lines of the major European cities.

Teaching tools

Lectures based on aerial views, cartography and literary as well as archival sources.

Office hours

See the website of Rosa Smurra


Quality education Sustainable cities Peace, justice and strong institutions

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.