Colonial Urbanisms

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSGA1EL2034

Semester and Year Offered: 4th Semester, 2nd Yr

Course Coordinator and Team: Rachna Mehra

Email of course coordinator: rmehra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The aim of the course is to introduce students to urban processes and policies that encompassed the legal, political, social and economic aspects of the region under imperial rule. From the 16th century, the European countries established colonies in various continents. The twin impact of imperialism and industrialisation led to systemic changes in the layout, institutions and social interaction in older urban forms and new towns established under the modern colonial regimes. The course will familiarize students to urbanism of this specific era.

Course Outcomes:

On the completion of the course, the students will be able to

  • To understand colonial urban forms and typologies.
  • To comprehend the evolution of civic government.
  • Identify and analyze colonialism in a global-urban context.


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:


The opening module will introduce students to the concept of Colonial Urbanism(s) and its association with the idea of Modernity.

Ports, Forts and Presidencies

By the end of the eighteenth century the land-based empires in Asia were replaced by the powerful sea-based European empires. The European commercial companies set up base in different parts of India and significantly segregated urban spaces in the form of white and black towns.

Survey, Surveillance and Civic Governance

The colonial rulers began cartographic practices as a necessary step to understand the landscape and topography of the region and the use of scientific knowledge enabled them to penetrate and gain control over it.

Imperial Vision in Architectural Monuments

The built environment and architecture was the visible symbol of the colonial rule signifying domination and compliance to the larger vision of imperial hegemony. In public buildings, the styles that emerged amalgamated the local and non native influences in public architecture.


Work, Labor and Leisure

The urban development in hills symbolized the reorganization of space reflecting the cultural ethos of Europe. The hills were promoted as exclusive getaways for the rulers where the idea of work intersected with rest and it became seamlessly entwined with the ideology of the empire.

Assessment Details with weights: (three)

  • Mid Sem Exam (30%).
  • The second assessment will involve field-based visit and a 2000 word written essay (30%).
  • Class Presentation (40%).


Reading List:

  • Amar Farooqui, (Oct. 5, 1996), Urban Development in a Colonial Situation: Early Nineteenth Century Bombay, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 31, No. 40 pp. 2746-2759
  • Indu Banga, (1991) ‘The City in Indian History: Urban Demography, Society and Politics’, (Manohar)
  • J. R. Rayfield Theories of Urbanization and the Colonial City in West Africa, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 1974), pp. 163-185 (23 pages)
  • Michele Lamprakos, Le Corbusier and Algiers: The Plan Opus and Colonial Urbanism in N. Alsayyad, (1992) ed., Forms of Dominance: on the Architecture and Urbanism of the Colonial Enterprise.
  • -193.
  • Narayani Gupta, ‘Delhi between the Two Empires 1803-1931, Society, Government and Urban Growth (OUP: Delhi) (Chapter 2 and 3)
  • Robert Home (2012), Colonial Township Laws and Urban Governance in Kenya Journal of African Law, Vol. 56, No. 2 pp. 175
  • Susan J. Lewandowski, Urban Growth and Municipal Development in the Colonial City of Madras, 1860-1900 The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 34, No. 2 (Feb., 1975), pp. 341-360