The Streets of Europe: The Sights, Sounds, and Smells That Shaped Its Great Cities

Brian Ladd (Author)


Merchants' shouts, jostling strangers, aromas of fresh fish and flowers, plodding horses, and friendly chatter long filled the narrow, crowded streets of the European city. As they developed over many centuries, these spaces of commerce, communion, and commuting framed daily life. At its heyday in the 1800s, the European street was the place where social worlds connected and collided.

Brian Ladd recounts a rich social and cultural history of the European city street, tracing its transformation from a lively scene of trade and crowds into a thoroughfare for high-speed transportation. Looking closely at four major cities--London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna--Ladd uncovers both the joys and the struggles of a past world. The story takes us up to the twentieth century, when the life of the street was transformed as wealthier citizens withdrew from the crowds to seek refuge in suburbs and automobiles. As demographics and technologies changed, so did the structure of cities and the design of streets, significantly shifting our relationships to them. In today's world of high-speed transportation and impersonal marketplaces, Ladd leads us to consider how we might draw on our history to once again build streets that encourage us to linger.
By unearthing the vivid descriptions recorded by amused and outraged contemporaries, Ladd reveals the changing nature of city life, showing why streets matter and how they can contribute to public life.

Product Details

$30.00  $27.60
University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
September 01, 2020
6.1 X 9.1 X 1.0 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

Brian Ladd is a historian and the author of Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape and Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age, both published by the University of Chicago Press.


"The Streets of Europe is brimming with information that will cause many readers to think anew about key aspects of urban life and how this has shaped the appearance and functionality of cities of the modern era. Through the frequent use of literary texts, Ladd provides a lively commentary on such gendered acts as leaping on a bus, on city sewage, and on the dangers of getting stuck in traffic (who knew that Franz Ferdinand and King Henry IV were both murdered as a secondary consequence of being held up in traffic!). Ladd is to be commended for his insights that are both place-specific and portable to other sites."--Fabrizio Nevola, Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, University of Exeter
"I thought I knew something about Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but Ladd's fascinating, deeply researched book surprised me on every page with his vivid descriptions of the everyday landscape of these cities and the activities, sounds and odors of their streets."--Robert Bruegmann, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History, Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago
"Deeply researched, beautifully-written, and appealingly illustrated, The Streets of Europe makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the European city in the 19th century. This is a sensory history and a sensual story told from street level. Ladd's thinking about the transformations of commerce through the eyes, ears, skin, and nose of the person on the street sheds new light on these spaces. Through its moves across the sources and narrative of strategies of urban and social history, The Streets of Europe offers a clear and powerful account of the transformation of street life in Europe."--Leora Auslander, author of Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France
With the arrival of the automobile, city streets became transformed, seemingly overnight, into somewhere to go through, not somewhere to go to. Now, in The Streets of Europe, Brian Ladd's dazzlingly kaleidoscopic overview of city life, city living, and city dying, the streets of the great European cities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries spring to life once more, in all their richness, plenitude, filth and glory."--Judith Flanders, author of The Victorian City: Everyday Life In Dickens' London