Values in Cities: Urban Heritage in Twentieth-Century Australia – Book Published

My book Values in Cities: Urban Heritage in Twentieth-Century Australia has now been released.

Examining urban heritage in twentieth-century Australia, James Lesh reveals how evolving ideas of value and significance shaped cities and places. Over decades, a growing number of sites and areas were found to be valuable by communities and professionals. Places perceived to have value were often conserved. Places perceived to lack value became subject to modernisation, redevelopment, and renewal. From the 1970s, alongside strengthened activism and legislation, with the innovative Burra Charter (1979), the values-based model emerged for managing the aesthetic, historic, scientific, and social significance of historic environments. Values thus transitioned from an implicit to an overt component of urban, architectural, and planning conservation. The field of conservation became a noted profession and discipline. Conservation also had a broader role in celebrating the Australian nation and in reconciling settler colonialism for the twentieth century. Integrating urban history and heritage studies, this book provides the first longitudinal study of the twentieth-century Australian heritage movement. It advocates for innovative and reflexive modes of heritage practice responsive to urban, social, and environmental imperatives. As the values-based model continues to shape conservation worldwide, this book is an essential reference for researchers, students, and practitioners concerned with the past and future of cities and heritage.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Graeme Davison

1. Introduction: Conservation, Cities and Values

2. Settler-Colonial Foundations, 1900s–30s

3. The Establishment of the National Trust, 1940s–60s

4. The Modern Field, 1950s–60s

5. The Heritage Movement, 1960s–70s

6. National Estate Visions, 1970s

7. Professionalisation and the Burra Charter, 1970s

8. Frameworks, Tools, Criteria, 1980s–90s

9. Changing Cities, Evolving Values, 1980s–90s

10. Conclusion: The Past and Future of Conservation

Afterword: Sharon Veale

About the Author

Dr James Lesh is an urban historian and Lecturer in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies. His research explores the theory and practice of heritage conservation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He has also published widely in Australian urban history.



  • Shortlisted for the 2023 National Trust of Australia (NSW) Heritage Awards: Resources and Publications.


  • “The book is not only a comprehensive history of heritage conservation in Australia but also a highly engaging read. It will be the benchmark for years to come. Lesh has succeeded magnificently!” – Fiona Gardiner in Fabrications.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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