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Picturing an industrial city: green and modern? Postcards from Chemnitz and Lodz (1880s–1980s)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2021

Piotr Kisiel*
Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Flakenstraße 29–31, 15537Erkner, Germany
*Corresponding author. Email:


A pictorial postcard condenses a cityscape into one iconic image, which claims to summarize the place, usually in a highly aestheticized version. If that is the case, how does one present an industrial city: with factories and worker housing or rather with churches and the palaces of industrial tycoons? Using four digitalized collections (over 700 postcards) this article analyses images of industrialized cities from the late nineteenth century until the end of the Cold War. The main argument is that this idealized depiction does not focus on industry, but rather taps into the imagination of the European city.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

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I would like to thank Gruia Bădescu (University of Konstanz) for his insightful comments, which helped to improve this article. An early version of this article was presented at the IX AISU Congress – The Global City: Urban Condition as a Pervasive Phenomenon (2019) and all the feedback I received there helped to improve the quality of this article. In particular, I want to extend my thanks to Jeffrey Cohen (Bryn Mawr College), Christina E. Kramer (University of Toronto) and Nancy Stieber (University of Massachusetts Boston). This research was supported by the Fondazione Internazionale Premio Balzan (2017 Balzan Prize (for Aleida and Jan Assmann)) and Thyssen-Krupp Stiftung (2019 for Aleida and Jan Assmann) and is a part of the Balzan project ‘Memory in the City’ at the University of Konstanz.


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