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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Urbanization and the creation of distinctive urban cultures are amongst the most dramatic social transformations in modern African history. This chapter considers the emergence of the field of African urban studies in the late colonial period, as sociologists began to research new forms of town life, and traces the development of a fully fledged urban history of the continent through to current concerns with ‘urban imaginaries’. The cosmopolitan nature of African towns and cities is traced from the nineteenth century to the colonial and postcolonial cities of the twentieth century by way of the key themes in urban history: built environments and urban networks, social and economic life, urban politics, and the arts.

Keywords: urbanization, towns, cities, cosmopolitanism, colonial architecture, urban imaginaries.

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