From its origins in the 1830s down to the present day, Melbourne has been amongst the most self-consciously suburban of Australian cities. At the end of the 19th century it was already one of the most extensive areas of low-density urban settlement in the world; its residents were more likely to own their own detached homes than residents of most other contemporary cities and the suburban ideal, along with its assumptions of domestic privacy and bourgeois conformity, was already deeply etched in the city's consciousness. Asking 'What suburb do you come from?' has long been a standard way for Melburnians to place each other, reflecting the well-founded assumptions that the city consists of nothing but suburbs, and that knowing where a person lives is a sure guide to where they belong socially. Only perhaps in the past two decades as suburban expansion has slowed, and ideals of urban consolidation have gained ground, has the long dominance of the suburban ideal been challenged, if not dethroned.