The Global City Project explored the relations between cities and global normative frameworks now and in the 17th century. The aim of this research was, and continues to be, to understand how global values and norms are constructed and reproduced within global cities, among global cities and between global cities, governments and international institutions.

Today, like four hundred years ago, globalisation and urbanisation impact cities around the world. Both developments affect everyday life within the city as well as the role and position of the city in the world. Cities have always been drivers of globalisation, while at the same time these global developments have challenged city governments and their citizens in multiple ways. While their residents show great diversity in social, economic, political, religious and ethnic backgrounds, recurrent questions are: ‘how to live together?’ and ‘how to create an urban culture of respect and trust?’ These questions have a legal dimension as well. In the Global City Project, four PhD researchers explored these kinds of questions, examining the past and present of the global city.

In the 17th century, the global role of cities and city-based companies contributed to a normative discourse, which drew on different bodies of law, including natural law and the emerging law of nature and nations, ius naturae et gentium. In the discussion, it was a source of normative guidance and developed as such. Today, international law has developed into a global body that includes human rights values, principles, and obligations to which cities increasingly relate directly, in cases bypassing the governance level of the national state.

Two PhD researchers explored the 17th century intellectual history of Amsterdam, arguably one of the global cities of the 17th century. One project addressed the influence of the socio-political and legal ideas coming out of the dialogues between the Portuguese Jewish community and local Dutch authorities on the legal thinking on urban diversity and citizenship (research conducted by Julia van der Krieke). Another project focused on the legal views on trade relations with non-European peoples and the slave trade in particular (research conducted by Yehonatan Elazar-DeMota). 

Two PhD researchers focussed on the role of international law (in particular human rights law) in the engagement of global cities with the urgent (global) social challenges of the 21st century impacting urban life. One project examined the current manifestation of the global city at the transnational stage through the interaction of urban actors with the international human right to housing (research conducted by Miha Marcenko). Another project examined how the reproduction of human rights norms, within the context of urban migration, contributes to trust and/or control within the global city (research conducted by Lisa Roodenburg).