Subproject C02 — Security and urban space
in London and Hamburg from the 1880s to the 1980s
Bild: "The Life Guards Keeping the Square"
At the end of the 19th century, social inequality was increasingly perceived as a threat. This was particularly true of the growing cities, which were seen as places of insecurity. One reason for this was that the class distinctions were now usually reflected in spatial segregation too: While the rich and poor had lived alongside each other in the same districts long into the 19th century, slums and affluent residential areas now developed. The growing slums were considered areas riddled with disease and hotbeds of criminality: The Hamburg cholera epidemic of 1892 and the series of murders committed by Jack the Ripper in London fuelled such perceptions. Middle class observers emphatically warned that the slums with their dreadful living conditions could become the origin of social unrest.
The subproject explores processes of securitisation and desecuritisation by way of a German/British comparison against this background. The focal points are the London unemployment riots of 1886/87 and the Hamburg dockers’ strike of 1896/97. Contemporaries repeatedly stressed that these events had reached previously unknown dimensions. They appeared to be an expression of an impending aggravation of the class conflict.
The question is asked of how urban security came to be the subject of new forms of knowledge production and in which way the knowledge generated shaped the establishment of new security regimes. Besides politicians and the popular press of both cities, central actors in security discourse also included activists in the settlement movement and social scientists, who formed epistemic communities. For example, the Hamburg sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies studied the dockers’ strike intensively, while the London shipowner Charles Booth commenced his extensive socio-scientific pioneering study of the living conditions of London workers immediately after the unemployment riots, even if not solely because of them.