(Urbanization): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

This session is devoted to the study of the urban fabric of the US Military Bases established across different European countries in the second half of the 20th century and its influence in the developments of European urban history in the same period.

After World War II, a new geopolitical landscape emerged, divided in two blocs confronted by military, ideological and economic interests. This scene lasted at least until 1989.

During that period, the United States, as the hegemonic power of the Western Bloc, established a number of military bases in allied European countries in order to safeguard its interests. They were placed not only in the occupied Germany or in the recently liberated Italy, but also in France and England and in countries like Spain, Greece or Portugal, that became strategic because their peripheral location.

The larger bases were conceived as authentic urban settlement. In addition to the necessary military infrastructures, they were provided with all kinds of urban facilities (supermarkets, churches, schools, theaters or hospitals). They were like real cities, whose planning schemes followed American suburban patterns. Huge technical, economic and human resources were mobilized, drawing on the recently acquired expertise of the US Army.

Over time, it can be observed these Bases not only acted as nodal points that allowed a substantive cultural exchange between the Americans and the locals, but also that they influenced the development of the local urban fabric in different ways.

In some cases, bases helped to boost the growth of small cities (existing or newly created) located nearby. In other cases, they were absorbed into larger cities, becoming a part of them as foreign bodies.

The session aims to improve knowledge and understanding of these urban phenomena across Europe and to share information and documentation on the Bases and its influence in the urban history of various European cities.

This session will receive papers related to:

  • The study of the history of the American bases in European territory, its main features and characteristics.
  • The influence of the American bases in the birth, development or growth of European cities.
  • American urban settlement patterns and their transnational dynamics in post-war Europe.
  • The role of local architects and how they interacted with those who came from the United States.

 Study cases related to the above mentioned topics will be welcome.

  • Spokesperson: José  Vela Castillo, IE University
  • Co-organizer(s): Pedro García Martínez, Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena
  • Keywords: US military bases | Cold War | Cultural exchange
  • Time period: Contemporary period
  • Topic(s): Architecture and urbanism | Cultural
  • Study area: Europe