Time capsules

Max Nathan
1 min readJun 2, 2023


London, April 2020.

New/old paper news: I’m very happy to have the lead article in this Urban Studies special issue on COVID-19 and cities. It’s open access!

Many thanks to Scott Orford, Yingling Fan and Phil Hubbard for having me.

This article is a time capsule.

I first drafted these ideas, fast, as a blogpost back in May 2020, just trying to make sense of what was happening: the unsettling feeling that COVID had turned cities upside down; and my anger and frustration at the UK’s chaotic response to the pandemic. Then I rebuilt it for this version in summer 2021. The article been online since December 2021, but is only now officially “published”.

Academia is slow. More importantly, though, the paper is very much a product of that strange and distressing period.

And while it tries to be evidence-based, and draw on the long history of urban places and pandemics, it’s also necessarily theoretical and speculative. So, reading time capsules like this can also be fascinating: which of the author’s wild predictions and speculations still hold?

On a quick read, some have turned out pretty well: others … well, let’s see. I’d welcome your thoughts.

Happy reading!



Max Nathan

UCL & CEP. Co-founder @centreforcities & @whatworksgrowth. Urbanism, economics, innovation, migration and public policy. My views. I’m at max-nathan.github.io.