What is public space?

Has it always been public?

What is private space?

Who has the right to use it?

How has it been contested?

This website is the project of Dr Katrina Navickas, exploring the history of public space in England from 1700 to today.

stevenage town centre









From enclosure and improvement acts in the 18th century, through planned settlements in the 19th century, to slum clearance, new towns and Business Improvement Districts, and private-public initiatives in the 20th and 21st centuries, public space has been contested and privatised.

I am exploring the history of contested public spaces in particularly resonant sites in England, including north Manchester terraces and squares used for demonstrations, disputed rights of way and common rights on Pennine moors, landownership in Croydon, planning in Stevenage and other towns.

I am also conducting a survey of commons and footpath disputes as part of my Open Spaces Society fellowship at the Museum of English Rural Life. Go to: https://historyofpublicspace.uk/my-oss-fellowship-at-merl-2021/ 

I’m particularly interested in planning disputes and protests that have resonance to the present day. Contact me.

thoughts in progress

Open Spaces Society symposium for The MERL, 8 September 2021

As part of my Open Spaces Society fellowship for the Museum of English Rural Life, I hosted a symposium on open spaces, commons and trespass on 8 September 2021. We had a great range of papers, photography, poetry and campaigns highlighted. I’m grateful to all the speakers, participants and Kate Ashbrook, Sarah Hacking, Nichola Finan …

Join my walking tour of Croydon, 30 July

I’m delighted to be working with Open City to offer a walking tour of Croydon architecture on 30 July. Join me! Book now: https://open-city.org.uk/events/croydon-1 My tour complements my printed tour map of Croydon, which you can buy from the Open House London website: https://shop.openhouselondon.org.uk/products/pocket-london-croydon-printed-tour-guide

Booking now open for Open Spaces Society online symposium at the MERL, 8 September

Booking is now open for my online symposium for the Open Spaces Society and the Museum of English Rural Life on 8 September. Free, all welcome. Go to the MERL website for more information and to book: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/event/whose-landscapes-open-spaces-society-symposium/ PROGRAMME (TBC): Session 1: 2pm-3pm Introductions and welcome from The MERL and OSS Katrina Navickas (The MERL …


I am Dr Katrina Navickas, a historian of popular protest and public space in England

My job is Reader in History, University of Hertfordshire:  link to staff page

My email: k.navickas@herts.ac.uk

I am currently Open Spaces Society Fellow 2020-21 at the Museum of English Rural Life.

This project on the history of public space is in part funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, 2018-19.

Twitter: @katrinanavickas and Rural Modernism: @RuralModernism

My books

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protest and the politics of space and place
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Loyalism and Radicalism in Lancashire

Recent press

Watch me on BBC One’s The One Show, 1 March 2021, interviewed by Bill Bailey on the Ramblers’ Association’s campaign to save lost footpaths. With Jack Cornish of the Ramblers.

BBC Newsnight, August 2019, on the Peterloo 2019 commemorations:

Central Croydon Pocket Tour map for Open City, which you can purchase from their website: https://shop.openhouselondon.org.uk/collections/printed-tours/products/pocket-london-croydon-printed-tour-guide

Croydon tour map
Croydon Pocket Tour map

‘Croydon’, in The Alternative Guide to the Boroughs of London, edited by Owen Hatherley for Open House London: https://open-city.org.uk/blog/the-alternative-guide-to-the-boroughs-of-london

open house guide to London

Essay on Peterloo for the LRB, 20 Dec 2018: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n24/katrina-navickas/opprobrious-epithets

Essay on E. P. Thompson, Karl Polanyi and R. H. Tawney for the LRB, 11 Oct 2018: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n19/katrina-navickas/whats-missing

Essay in Protest: Stories of Resistance, edited by Ra Page (Comma Press): https://www.thelondonmagazine.org/interview-ra-page-on-stories-of-uprising-and-protest-in-the-age-of-coronavirus/

Protest cover