Modern history started with a landscape. Jules Michelet, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and Ranke forged experiments in applying the critical history of princes to the space of a nation. Macaulay represented the transitions of democracy, printing, and transport that invented modern England through the lens of the landscape. “Could the England of 1685 be, by some magical process, set before our eyes, we should not know one landscape in a hundred or one building in ten thousand,” he rhapsodized. "The country gentleman would not recognise his own fields. The inhabitant of the town would not recognise his own street.” The dozen pages that followed drew out the comparison between seventeenth- and nineteenth-century England at great length, following country house, lane, and town through their transitions into the modern world. His reasoning about the loneliness of the ancient world and the cosmopolitanism of the present were largely justified on the basis of semi-panoramic descriptions of landscape, juxtaposing the moldy countryhouses of the past with the bustling coffeehouses of the present. Landscape writing was, in terms of the genre, a relatively new addition to the portraits of great leaders and studies in character that typified the earlier genre of the Ars Historica. Modern history, in the age of the mass franchise and mass conscription, was an exercise in describing the collective, not just the individual. Nineteenth-century historians, nursed upon ancient geographers, largely imagined these collectives in terms of the land in which they were raised. As nation became the subject of history, landscape description became its lens.
Such descriptions of the nation as a landscape contributed to persuading their readers that there was indeed a nation, unified and monolithic, that reflected the process of historical change, such that the history of that nation could be written. The histories of the nation that flooded Europe after Napoleon depended largely upon such descriptions of diverse provinces and the landscape as a whole, replacing the biography and anecdote of princely chronologies and classical narratives of history with a new, panoptic vision of province and capital in their relationship to each other. Michelet’s History of France (1833), among the first works of the genre, opened its tribute to the nation with physical descriptions of the “peculiarities of the provinces.” A trustworthy history of the nation depended upon describing provinces with as much authority as did an atlas.
It was no mean task to assemble the archive of mentions of particular countryhouses and provincial capitals upon which such a landscape depended. A as twentieth-century British geographer H. C. Darby explained of Michelet, “in order to equip himself for his task, he made long wanderings through various parts of France to gain a first-hand impression of its varying countrysides.” Bonnie Smith has documented the “sleepless nights in coaches,” “hard beds,” and motley other difficulties endured by Ranke, Burnouf, Langlois, and other scholars as they pioneered the practices of modern scientific historical research. To write history, as the historical discipline was invented, was very much a matter of interacting with the material landscape. Moreover, this interaction with landscape, as Smith makes clear, was the foundation upon which national history was constructed. The task of history, as framed by Leopold von Ranke in his letters of the 1820s, was very much a matter of travel to different provinces – where he might bribe archivists and buy tomes in order to compile an archive the shape of a nation. The historian’s route, traveling across diverse landscapes, was the single continuous thread that made possible the forging of an integrated story about the modern nation. So from their birth, modern historians were travelers and specialists in landscape: acquainted with provinces, travel, and stagecoaches to a degree likely unknown by their ancient and medieval forebears.
Telling a history of nation rather than family required the writers to develop tools for privileging landscape over the portrait. They borrowed from their predecessors, local histories of towns that formed so crucial an element to the manufacture of eighteenth-century community identity. They employed the Cartesian survey of agents, language, and landscape developed by Vico and Herder towards the self-definition of a new nation, emerging through the dissemination of newspapers and printed maps over highways, canals, and railways, telling all those who inhabited the emerging space of the nation how to understand itself. The very narratives of transport, print, and urban experience that form the canon of social histories of the nation today were collected as an attempt to describe the geography that typified the modern nation, an identity grounded in a landscape.
One of the first revolutions in modern history was likewise based around the choice of an alternative landscape as the subject of study. Privileging the city over the nation in a narrative of the social offered a different history, a history of middle-class knowledge-making elites as a challenge to the legitimacy of the nation-state. New histories of the city reflected and channeled the activities of a new urban middle class intent upon restructuring their cities in the image of rational order, hoping to employ sanitation, public parks, and urban museums to unify their separation from the working class. They offered a critique of nationalist expectations of the state, pointing past agricultural and military cohesion to an alternate source of identity. Instead, an emerging, international, Kantian cosmopolite, attached to particular urban sites, was offered as the motive force of civilization. In 1860, Fustel de Coulanges’s La Cité Ancienne captured early nineteenth-century politics over the rise of modern city form and gave London and Paris a lineage going back to the ancient world. With Max Weber’s posthumous study, The City (1902), and Henri Pirenne’s Medieval Cities (1927), urban life was offered as an alternative definition of modern civilization, a western institution that allowed for an international bourgeoisie who had more in common with each other than with nations and nationalism. In privileging an alternative landscape to the nation, city historians were able to foreground middle-class actors, categorizing national military leaders and the folk as irrelevant. Weber’s city, for instance — non-tribal, autonomous, and non-military — contrasted the folk and the military nation-state as an alternative form of organization. Pirenne’s bastides were the first rebels against feudalism, the inventors of modern economy and contemporary civil rights. Where city rather than nation formed the basis for analysis, middle-class actors appeared to be the source of political initiative and economic expansion.
Since the nineteenth century, social science practice reified the binary of nation and city, abstracting the pairing to the basis for training historians and the criteria of important work in most fields. Already by the 1860s, the form of the nation was being generalized from Britain and France to other nations. Alternative histories of the Irish and Scots delineated the existence of rival nations to Great Britain, grounding national identity in the present landscape of the past as evidenced in standing stones and other monuments. Henri Pirenne borrowed the fiction of landscape as the basis of national unity for his History of Belgium. In the United States, historical geography was being looked to as a source of self-understanding, and Tocqueville elaborated was offered as a basis for the first national histories written during reconstruction. Nation was likewise projected onto indigenous peoples and their landscapes, anachronized backwards in time, and extended to diasporas and nomadic peoples, all putatively interpreted with reference to their associated landscape. By the beginning of the twentieth century it was inevitable that national history would form the basis for historical education and the training of history PhD’s.
Urban history was likewise refounded as the basis for academic training. Urban histories offered American historians the basis for narrating the international transfer of liberty from Pirenne’s European cities to their own seaboard towns. Urban history also offered a compelling primary landscape for disciplines such as sociology that aimed to address the so-called urban crisis of radical movements situated in ethnic enclaves. City governments inspired by the garden city movement likewise turned to urban history for inspiration for future city plans. The result was a booming industry of city histories, grounded on the same conceit of the city as a privileged landscape within national history, followed by an academic subdiscipline devoted to culling the best practices of the field. By 1952 there were five historians teaching urban history classes, and in 1963 there was a journal and a conference. Nation and city became fixed as the landscapes for study, and they have remained the dominant forms for social history, alongside an array of conceptual fields (history of science/technology, intellectual history, economic history) ever since.
The problem with privileging nation and city is that those landscapes are relics of a particular period that has already come to a close. City and nation obsessed the writers of nineteenth-century Europe because they were emergent geographies that defined the economic and political flows of their time. Already in 1902, facing the arbitrary violence over national boundaries that characterized the first world war, geographers like Lucien Febvre were calling attention to the arbitrary and limited period in which the national boundary applied, arguing that the inhabitants of any region possessed a “double consciousness” of their landscape. Postnationalism again awakened historians to the problematic content of the nation in 1965, when Smith published his article deconstructing the French hexagon. Febvre’s students, the Annales school, cast off the nation in preference for the Mediterranean and Atlantic as zones of interrogation, and Immanuel Wallerstein proffered the binary of core and periphery in the nation’s place.
These critiques are familiar to contemporary historians of the West, and indeed, since the late 70s, few syllabi in British history do not reference some account of the breakup of Britain. Yet we retained an anachronistic dependence upon nation and city in our pedagogy and hiring practices, following rather than challenging the economics of the job market. The cost of retaining such categories, however, is a violent disjoint between what historians know and what they practice. However epistemologically radical, most contemporary historians nonetheless exile comparative studies, studies of migrants and exiles, and even accounts of borders to a no-man’s-land where they’re unlikely to influence undergraduate syllabi or qualifying exam reading lists, at most occupying a single heading.
Under the influence of Cassirer, twentieth-century historians increasingly described the sensuous practices involved in the making of imaginal landscape.
The tide of critical investigations of landscape had has a long trajectory of influencing the writing of histories of nation and city. First glimmers of the influence of nineteenth-century landscape investigation appear very early. Carl Bridenbaugh’s Cities in the Wilderness (1938) organized his history of colonial America around the organization of house, village, and town by the settlers. Oscar Hamlin began his study of American immigration, The Uprooted (1951), with comparisons of European village life and the American frontier town. W. G. Hoskins with his The Making of the English Landscape (1956), and the works of two of his students, Christopher Taylor’s Fields in the English Landscape (1975), and Oliver Rackham’s Ancient Woodland (1980), defined Britain’s boundary periodization of premodern and modern experience in terms of the organization of everyday landscapes. J. B. Jackson’s American Space (1972) defined the making of a post-civil-war modern nation through the landscape of infrastructure and state fairs, while his student John Stilgoe’s Common Landscape (1982) defined the experience of antebellum America in terms of the common landscapes of four major regions. Carl Schorske’s Fin de Siecle Vienna (1980) applied the psychoanalysis of landscape to narrate class alienation in nineteenth-century Vienna, and T. J. Clark’s The Painting of Modern Life (1985) did the same for Paris.
Yet none of these texts went as far as another set of historians, inspired by the political promise of landscape investigation, who began to construct an alternative periodization of modern experience. Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory (1966) and The Theater of the World (1969) located the Renaissance through the imagined and real landscapes of memory palaces, gardens, and theaters that were coming to organize experience and knowledge. Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s The Railway Journey (1977) offered a history of the modern economy, social experience, and subjectivity interpreted through the railway. Kenneth Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier (1985), John Stilgoe’s Borderland (1988) and Alongshore (1994), Alain Corbin’s The Lure of the Sea (1994) offered the suburb and the seashore — both zones peripheral to the history of nation and city — as essential landscapes for defining an international experience of the nineteenth century.
Scholars have emphasized the constructedness of sensuous landscapes in the most banal of settings. Stilgoe's Borderlands showed the theology and sentimentality fixed to flower-gathering and prospect-viewing among American women of the suburbs after 1860s; the same landscapes have also been mined for evidence of how, through the nineteenth-century fetishization of cleanliness and dirt, the suburban home brokered the exoticization of working class and ethnic minority. Still others played upon the development of stereotypical leisure spaces of modernity and their deep content: Alain Corbin's Lure of the Sea and similar works explained the multiple moral registers implied by bathing in ocean water and ocean light, drawing out a story about the making of bourgeois identity. Studies of domesticity and nostalgia in postwar Russia and the United States revealed the intensification of advertisements highlighting the ordinary spaces of the home, creating psychological longings for an ordered society. Even the sense of time proved to be a category dependent upon the organization of the landscape; clock-time and time-zones were standardized across Europe and America only with the coming of the post coach and railroad. Modern politics and economic values, from the suburban cottage to the eight-hour day, evidenced the shaping of world-view at the subconscious level of landscape.
By reinterpreting the real territory of shared experience, representations of imaginary places persuaded strangers of their belonging in a common realm of experience. There were three great contenders as to when that break occurred.
The first and most classical candidate was the Renaissance. Almost as soon as phenomenologists began investigating cultures under imperial rule, they were located as differences in time Renaissance and Baroque located the great care over finicule and window in construction. Phenomenology, in this instant, became a challenge to history. The question became not what was landscape but when did modern landscape occur?  The Renaissance definition of modern landscape lasted as long as Frances Yates with a definition that rested upon the swarming of representations. Yates and her contemporaries found among Neoplatonists new tools of representing landscape, from linear perspective to the doctrine of signatures — that invented imaginary worlds. These new worlds — memory palaces, utopias, and ideal cities — demonstrated how imagination and attention paid to landscape expanded the horizons of engineering, politics, and scholarship.
Increasingly, however, politically-motivated later generations questioned the scope of those horizons. As Denis Cosgrove recognized, tools of representation as subtle as the adoption of linear perspective collaborated to build faith in the proponents of the elite. To these generations, the story of the renaissance was how the elite employed masques, murals, and landscape painting as means of representing everyday landscape in order to manufacture an illusion of political consensus.
A second contingent, more interested in the ability of elites to use landscape for a political agenda, fixed on the monument and the first world war. This contingent looked back beyond the origins of romantic landscape imagery in the eighteenth century to the moment when it was directly harnessed to the purposes of political action. Deep England was refracted in painting, poetry, and novels anchored patrician nationalism and became the cherished emblem of soldiers dying on the front. In France and England both, monuments to the national dead became an important source of popular history, while British cemeteries exported an idiom of English countryside around the globe. In Germany and Britain both, conceptions of landscape as translated by preservationists offered an idiom, competing with modernism, for the design of ideal cities. Monumentality and urban planning dated the point at which the power of elites harnessed romantic landscape as a tool for creating identity and marshalling citizens to work and to war.
Among political radicals, who preferred to chart changes in economic experience to the plight of artists, the most popular candidate was instead nineteenth-century Paris. A great many historians instead settled upon 1860s Paris, among the eras when the phenomenological attention to the life of objects first appeared — the object tale, where the scarf itself tells the story of how contingent lives in Paris are knit together by wider forces. Indeed the era united both themes of power from above and traditions from below in an intense way. When the city of Paris turned to Perrier and the Rothschilds for loans to finance the boulevards of Haussmann, they turned rents over to the modern capital market, an event that eventually outpriced both the working class and small craftsmen. Displaced and resentful, working class radicals organized the Commune; displaced small craftsmen organized the new Right. The landscape itself became fluid, a flux of changing political values and reinterpretations: squares renamed, streets renamed, churches abandoned, statues torn down, and old names for squares suddenly remembered. The whole an era of consumption, visuality played out in spectacle: artists trained on phenokistoscopes and popular lectures on the eye seduced viewers with the panorama, the Paris morgue, the wax museum, and department store. Modern landscape, these scholars argued, was fashioned as capital intervened between humans and their sense of reality, transforming every structure of the environment from the price of rent to the perception and use of public space.
The most recent contingent of scholars link the story of modern landscape to the political and economic machinations of the age of the infrastructure state. They looked back to the age of diking and sail, the northern renaissance, seeing in these economic and political manipulations of territory the birth of a new relationship between people and landscape. Beginning with the early modern Netherlands, was able to tell a story where civil engineering, the transport revolution, the national parks movement, and modern urban planning — all those centralized, expert-driven transformations of territory at an unprecedented scale — were wrapped into one event. The subsequent tensions between center and periphery, between regions and ethnicities vying for influence over city Aldermen or Boards of Planning or Corps of Civil Engineers, then become of a piece. Timothy Mitchell and Patrick Joyce applied studies in state surveying, public building, and vernacular architecture to define the landscapes of modern expert planning. Modern landscape charts the modern struggles of economic and political centralizaton, the tensions between individuals and experts.
Each of these divergent tendencies — architectural, cartographic, technological, and bureaucratic — has enhanced our understanding of lived landscape. Architecture historian Gwendolyn Wright lumps Georges Duby, Natalie Zemon Davis, and the Cultural Turn of the 1980s into a “spatial turn” that “shifted the meaning of culture far away from earlier notions of connoisseurship.” For her, the entire tendency of postwar history has been an increasing intimacy with the description of space, its experience and management.
 Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James II (Longman, Brown, Green, 1849), 281.
 Jules Michelet, History of France (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1845), 1:149.
 H. Darby, “On the Relations of Geography and History,” Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers) (1953): 2.
 Bonnie G. Smith, “Gender and the Practices of Scientific History: The Seminar and Archival Research in the Nineteenth Century,” The American Historical Review 100, no. 4 (October 1, 1995): 1166.
 Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom : Liberalism and the Modern City (London ;;New York: Verso, 2003); Simon Gunn, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class : Ritual and Authority and the English Industrial City, 1840-1914 (Manchester ;;New York ;New York NY USA: Manchester University Press; Distributed exclusively in the USA by St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
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 Alain Corbin, The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); John Stilgoe, Alongshore (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); John Stilgoe, Borderland: The Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1939 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
 J. Stilgoe, Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb, 1820-1914 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988);A. McClintock, Imperial leather (Routledge New York, 1995); Ben Campkin and Rosie Cox, eds., Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007); William A Cohen and Ryan Johnson, eds., Filth: Dirt, Disgust, and Modern Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).
 Alain Corbin, The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the seaside in the western world, 1750-1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). John Stilgoe, Alongshore (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994). John K Walton, The British Seaside: Holidays and Resorts in the Twentieth Century (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000); John K Walton, The English Seaside Resort: A Social History, 1750-1914 (Leicester [Leicestershire]: Leicester University Press, 1983).
 Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001).
 Pierre Nora, "General Introduction: Between Memory and History," Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, vol. 1, ed. Lawrence Kritzman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); and Pierre Nora, "The Era of Commemoration," Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, vol. 3, ed. Lawrence Kritzman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Reuben Rainey.
 Jacob Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien, ein Versuch, von Jacob Burckhardt. (Basel: Schweighauser, 1860). Heinrich Wölfflin, Renaissance and baroque. (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966 ).
 M. L Berneri, Journey through utopia (Routledge & Paul, 1950). Robert Hutchins, The university of Utopia. ([Chicago]: University of Chicago Press, 1953). Harry Berger, The Renaissance imagination : second world and green world, 1965. E Tillyard, The Elizabethan world picture, (New York: Macmillan Co., 1944). F. A Yates, The art of memory (University of Chicago Press, 1974). Heinrich Wölfflin, Renaissance and baroque. (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1966 ).
 Chandra Mukerji, Territorial Ambitions and the Gardens of Versailles, Cambridge cultural social studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). D. E. Cosgrove, The Palladian landscape: Geographical change and its cultural representations in sixteenth-century Italy (Penn State Press, 1993).
 M. Heffernan, “For Ever England: The Western Front and the Politics of Remembrance in Britain,” Ecumene 2, no. 3 (1995): 293–324. M. Kammen, “Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States,” The Journal of American History 80, no. 4 (1994): 1457–1458. J. Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge University Press, 1995). David Matless, Landscape and Englishness (London: Reaktion Books, 1998). David Matless, “Visual Culture and Geographical Citizenship: England in the 1940s,” Journal of Historical Geography 22, no. 4 (October 1, 1996): 424. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975). D. Lowenthal, “British National Identity and the English Landscape,” Rural History 2, no. 2 (1991): 205–230. Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: A.A. Knopf ;Distributed by Random House, 1995).
 Jonathan Crary, “Techniques of the Observer,” October 45 (Summer 1988): 3-35. V. R. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris (University of California Press, 1999). David Harvey, Paris, Capital of Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2003). R. D. E. Burton, Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris, 1789-1945 (Cornell University Press, 2001).
 Robin L Einhorn, Property Rules: Political Economy in Chicago, 1833-1872 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). Thomas J Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, Princeton Studies in American Politics (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1996).Theodore M Porter, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1995).
 T. Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Joyce, op. cit.
 Gwendolyn Wright, “Cultural History: Europeans, Americans, and the Meanings of Space,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 64, no. 4 (December 2005): 436. For an earlier perspective on the same theme, Richard Longstreth, "The Problem with 'Style,'" The Forum: Bulletin of the Committee on Preservation, Society of Architectura Historians 6 (December 1984): 1-4.