Book Chapter

Is there a European planning tradition?


Europe largely hosted modern urban planning’s emergence and remains important in the global story. But is there actually a European planning tradition, or has planning remained as separate national traditions? This chapter examines convergent and divergent aspects of planning’s history within Europe. Crucial, particularly pre-1914, were Europe’s relatively dense international transport and communications networks and absence of border restrictions impeding international knowledge flows. Such convergent factors were offset by nationalist divergences and urban planning’s potential universalism was realised within national institutional ‘boxes’. Before 1914 planning largely reflected liberal nationalist ideals yet also served more conservative, less enlightened ends. Competitive nationalist rivalries became major wars that damaged planning’s cohesiveness. Nevertheless, a Europe-based, international planning movement grew before 1939, fostering pan-European sentiments that flowered after 1945. The European Union became their primary institutional expression but it never acquired a planning competency. Yet it helped shape a common European planning discourse and spatial perspective. Though lately challenged by recent nationalist pressures, this comes closest to being a genuinely European planning tradition.

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Ward, Stephen V.

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-07-01

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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This RADAR resource is Identical to Is There a European Planning Tradition?
This RADAR resource is Part of European planning history in the 20th century: A continent of urban planning [ISBN: 9781032222264] / edited By Max Welch Guerra, Abdellah Abarkan, María A. Castrillo Romón, Martin Pekár (Routledge, 2022).


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