Planning history is a methodological tool for planning scholarship. As a social science based pursuit planning is always embedded in changing socio-economic theories of urbanization (population dynamics) and urbanism (urban culture). These theories emerge as responses to the ways that those living in urban places experience urbanization and urbanism; together these are the materials out of which planning history arises.
Planning history is the narrative that results from the collection and analysis of information derived from local experiences. These local experiences, although always unique in time and place accumulate in ways that expose the larger and more generic social, political and economic patterns that shape and reshape our ideas about urbanization and urbanism. Planning history research seeks to uncover and distill these general patterns as they are made manifest in seemingly unique local experiences. In planning history we develop hypotheses about the general from studying the specific.
Our focus this semester was upon urban planning history in New York City in the second half of the 20th Century. We read a series of books pertinent to that pursuit. We used this case based evidence to help us better understand the role played by institutionalized planning in shaping these particular outcomes.