AccueilCity Lights (XVIIth-XXIst centuries). Persistence and change in urban lighting technologies and night-time practices

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Publié le mardi 16 juillet 2013 par Elsa Zotian


The session "City Lights" is organized within the framework of the 12th international conference of the EAUH (European Association for Urban History) which will take place in Lisbon from the 3rd to the 6th September 2014. It is part of the studies on night, a dimension which has been long neglected in urban history. The session proposes to study in a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective (in history, geography, planning, sociology and environmental studies) the evolution of night-time and street-lighting  practices in the world from the XVIIth century up to the present:  from the increasing demand in public lighting in european capitals to the protection of the night sky and energy savings.



For a long time, the night has been a neglected dimension in urban history. The dark hours are often merely an afterthought, an exotic excursion into the gloomy abyss of society. The night, however, encompasses more than sex, crime or sleep – especially with the introduction of new and comprehensive lighting technologies: Street-lighting with suet and oil lamps spread in Europe since the 17th century; these were later replaced by gas reverberators and electric lighting systems. The “lighting revolution” of the 19th century contributed to a profound change of living conditions, e.g., by enabling the night-time production of goods or tighter control of nocturnal street life.

Building on the pioneering works of Wolfgang Schivelbusch (Lichtblicke, 1983), Murray Melbin (Night as Frontier, 1987) and Alain Beltran/Patrice-Alexandre Carré (La Fée et la servante, 1991), the development of lighting technologies and infrastructures as well as their societal impact has received more and more attention in history and the social sciences since the 1990s. While the electrification of modern society has been relatively well studied, there are still a number of research gaps to be filled, for example regarding the functions assigned to light, its history before and after the “lighting revolution”, and its diffusion in non-Western societies.

This session aims to investigate the evolution of urban lighting technologies and night-time practices from a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective, including history, geography, planning, sociology, and environmental studies. Focussing on illuminated spaces such as streets, buildings, shop windows or signs, it follows the ever-increasing demand for urban light since the 17th century, initially in European capitals, to the present discussions on “light pollution”. We are looking for papers that address the following questions: How were new lighting technologies and infrastructures diffused and received? Which social uses and functions were connected with artificial light over time? Who were the key actors? How did new lighting technologies change night-time practices? Were there tensions and conflicts related to this “colonisation of the night”? How were these resolved? And how did the introduction of new lighting technologies influence the symbolism and perceptions of (artificial) light and darkness? We are especially interested in case studies examining the political and social dimensions of lighting. By addressing these topics, this session seeks to open up new perspectives on the development of lighting technologies and night-time practices in different societal settings.

Paper proposal

To submit a paper proposal, registration is required

A paper proposal for presentation at the conference should be submitted in the form of an abstract only (not to exceed 300 words).

Deadline for paper proposals submission: October 15, 2013

Notification of paper acceptance: December 15, 2013

Paper proposals can only by submitted online, via the EAUH2014 website. If sent by post or email will not be accepted.

Paper submission

The authors of the paper proposals that have been accepted by the session organisers will be invited to submit the full text (appr.7-14 pages), for inclusion on the USB stick distributed to all the participants of the conference.

Deadline for full text submissions: July 1, 2014

Full texts can only by submitted online, via the EAUH2014 website, if sent by post or email will not be accepted.

Session will take place at the EAUH 2014 (European Association for Urban History), Lisbon, Portugal, September 3-6 2014

For more information

Session organizers

  • Sophie Reculin (France) - Lille 3 University; IRHIS (Septentrion Institute of Historical Research)

  • Hasenöhrl Ute (Germany) - Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning

  • Edensor Tim (United Kingdom) - Manchester Metropolitan University


  • Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
    Lisbonne, Portugal


  • mardi 15 octobre 2013


  • street lighting, night, light pollution


  • Sophie Reculin
    courriel : sophiereculin [at] orange [dot] fr

URLS de référence

Source de l'information

  • Sophie Reculin
    courriel : sophiereculin [at] orange [dot] fr

Pour citer cette annonce

« City Lights (XVIIth-XXIst centuries). Persistence and change in urban lighting technologies and night-time practices », Appel à contribution, Calenda, Publié le mardi 16 juillet 2013,