Member of the Week: Alexia Yates

Alexia YatesAlexia Yates

Lecturer (Assistant Professor), Department of History, University of Manchester

Also an affiliate at the Manchester Urban Institute and the Center for History and Economics, Harvard University


Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

I’ve just finished an article that I’ve been working on for some time about the way people in nineteenth-century France – principally lawyers, bankers, legislators, and some ubiquitous anonymous pamphleteers – tried to understand and change the relationship between land and money. My current research is continuing to pursue the intersection of property, politics, and space that influenced my first book but turns to a study of how finance became a routine part of daily life for French people in the first age of global capital. It might not seem urban, but there’s a strong spatial component to the project: tracing how people conceive of national and international financial networks, as well as how local financial districts were constructed. Scale is a crucial element of the exploration – for example, the idea that the police at the Paris Stock Exchange might influence the international economy by regulating the distribution of seats on the exchange floor. Like many others working on the history of economic life, I am attracted to the task of interrogating and reconfiguring our ideas about how the economy works, about how the production, circulation, and redistribution of wealth is effected, and for me the spaces and stuff of economic practice are both crucial technologies and entry points.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship? 

I’m lucky to work in a place that is so enthusiastic for European history. I’m currently teaching a first-year seminar on nineteenth-century Paris as the capital of modernity, which is a fun introduction to urban studies and European history for new history students. I’m also teaching a masters course on the Landscapes of Modernity, in which I really get to dig deep into urban theory across transnational case studies. (I also got to teach Nature’s Metropolis, which is such a pleasure to introduce to students.) Happily I get to work out the economic history side of things in a second-year survey on Crisis and Prosperity, which tackles twentieth-century European history from the perspective of economic change and inequality in the modern era. I hope to develop my new research with a special third-year seminar on property and wealth in transnational perspective soon.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

The list of new books about money, finance, and property awaiting me this summer is outstanding! I’m excited for Fahad Bishara’s Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1750-1840 (Cambridge, 2017), as well as Noam Maggor’s Brahmin Capitalism (Harvard, 2017). As for those recent ones I’m behind on, I’ve had both Rosemary Wakeman’s Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement (Chicago, 2016) and Jacob Remes’s Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era (Urbana, 2016) on my desk for too long, and Charles Maier’s Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging since 1500 (Harvard, 2016) is getting a second read. Once those are out of the way, I’ll be ready for forthcoming works from Andrew Israel Ross, The Pleasures of Paris: Sex and Urban Culture in the Nineteenth Century, Michael Mulvey’s The Moral Moment: Catholics and the Housing Question in Postwar France, Pete Soppelsa’s Fragility of Urban Modernity on Parisian infrastructure, Catherine Clark’s Paris and the Cliché of History, as well as Desmond Fitz-Gibbon’s Particulars of Sale on the property market in nineteenth-century Britain.

What advice do you have for graduate students preparing a dissertation project related to urban history or urban studies?

Be comparative, move across scales, but stay locally embedded and make sure there are people in your story. Every history takes (and makes) place.

What’s your favorite street (or block) in Paris, and why?

Like choosing a favourite child. I’ll cut things short and say either the rue de Belleville or the rue de Ménilmontant – both are meandering, climbing above the city and making excellent routes to chase the sunset up through the streets; both take you through some of the sites of infamy of the Paris Commune (crossing the rue Haxo, in particular); and they end up nearly at the Archives de Paris, still one of my favourite places to work.

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