Putting Burgess in the bin

C. Rawding

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Once upon a time, there was an urban sociologist called E.W.Burgess who lived in Chicago. He was a keen follower of the ideas of Charles Darwin which he adapted to an economic context to explain patterns of urban land use in Chicago. (ppt slide 1) Somehow, through a magic recipe lost long ago, Burgess’ model became the most important model in geography in the schools of England, and even though it was based on Chicago in the 1920s, it is still in use today to explain land use in modern English towns and cities such as Dorking, Hastings and Eastbourne. And it shouldn’t be, because it’s nonsense (Burgess 1925; Johnston 1971; Garner 1968). (ppt slide 2) The wholesale adoption of Burgess’ model has fossilised our understanding of the incredibly dynamic nature of urban landscapes and more importantly sterilised the urban landscapes we introduce to our pupils. Urban geography should be the most riveting of topics for the 85% of our pupils that live in urban areas because it should reflect the dynamism, excitement, change, inequality, problems and issues of everyday lives. Instead it produces circular diagrams to be crayoned in. What I want to do in this paper is to propose a rather different approach to interpreting urban landscapes which stresses the dynamic interplay of the range of processes which produce our ever-changing cityscape. I hope to be able to do this through a fairly brief discussion of some of the urban geographies (a deliberate plural) of Brighton.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventGeography Teacher Educators' Conference - Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Jan 201031 Jan 2010


ConferenceGeography Teacher Educators' Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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