Abstract This special issue draws on new research conducted by the PUblic REnaissance: Urban Cultures of Public Space between Early Modern Europe and the Present project, funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area (see: www.hiddencities.eu). The project considers how public spaces, from street corners to major city squares, were shaped by the everyday activities of ordinary city dwellers between 1450 and 1700. We have focused on the urban fabric, and the ways in which meanings are attached to specific sites in the city (and objects in museum collections) that are often overlooked – the material culture of public space. Our themes are familiar to urban historians – sociability, the circulation of knowledge, information or gossip, authority and its contestation – although by moving between textual sources, maps, the built fabric and museum artefacts, our interdisciplinary and cross-Europe approach is structured around material objects in the early modern period.

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