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Richard Dennis at Prague conferences

Observations on field trips, banquets and monastery living

Richard Dennis at Prague conferences

Professor Richard Dennis was in Prague twice during August, first for the 15th International Conference of Historical Geographers, held in the (slightly suburban) Science Faculty of the Charles University, and then for the 11th International Conference of the European Association for Urban History, held in the (very downtown) Arts Faculty of the same university.

At the Historical Geographers conference Richard presented a paper on More Haste, Less Speed: On the Nature of Mobility in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century London. At the Urban Historians conference, he co-convened and part-chaired a major session on Historicising the politics of transport and cities, which included papers from British, French, Dutch, Austrian and Turkish scholars discussing roads and taxation, urban tramways from the 19th to the 21st centuries, railway stations and their environs, the anthropology of underground railways, and transport planning in the era of automobiles and skyscrapers.

During and between the two conferences, he had considerable opportunities for mobility on the transport systems of Prague and nearby cities, all of which provides fuel for a future extended presentation of ‘More Haste, Less Speed’ (as a keynote at the ‘Mobile Urbanisms’ conference in London in November) and for further papers on the experience of travelling by Underground in nineteenth-century London (as a keynote at ‘Going Underground’ and a UCL Lunch-Hour Lecture, both in January 2013, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the London Underground).

Other comparative research suggests that Historical Geographers do better field-trips but Urban Historians have more lavish banquets. Both conferences held their principal social events in ex-monasteries, the historical geographers next to the castle, the urban historians much farther out, near the end of the tram line. Whereas the historical geographers’ location looked like a monastery, the urban historians’ venue could never have been designed for frugality or temperance!

Note on Illustration: Luigi Loir – “Underground Railway”: As far as I can make out, the painting is of Paris and not of a ‘proper’ underground, which didn’t open in Paris until 1900 (the year after that attributed to the painting (1899)), and was never steam-hauled.

National Gallery of Prague: (tracked down by Andrew Harris and Caroline Bressey – also at the Historical Geography conference).



Luigi Loir – “Underground Railway”

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