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A micro-history of 'black Handsworth': towards a social history of race in Britain

Connell, Kieran (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis represents an account of the experience of race in contemporary Britain. It adopts a ‘micro historical’ approach: the focus is on those of African-Caribbean descent in Handsworth, an inner-city area of Birmingham, during the ‘long 1980s’, defined roughly as the period from the middle of the 1970s to the start of the 1990s. This was a period of heightened racial tension. Popular anxieties about the black inner city were brought to the fore following rioting in 1981 and 1985, after which Handsworth was conceptualised by the media as the ‘Front Line’ in an ongoing ‘war on the streets’. The long 1980s was also a period in which inequalities in housing, unemployment and other areas continued to disproportionately affect black communities in Handsworth. These issues were an important contributing factor to the black experience. However, this thesis argues that the black experience was by no means reducible to them. Race, it is argued, was something that was lived in Handsworth, sometimes in relation racism and inequality, but also in what E. P. Thompson famously argued to be ‘the raw material of experience’. Race was a ‘structure of feeling’ in Handsworth. It meant having to deal with the effects of discrimination or high unemployment, for example, sometimes on a daily basis. But the thesis will show that race was also often re-articulated as a positive identity, and was lived out in routines, traditions, institutions and everyday practices. Taken together, this constituted what can meaningfully be described as a black way of life in Handsworth, something that represents a significant part of the social history of contemporary Britain.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Hilton, Matthew and Gunning, David
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of Modern History
Subjects:DA Great Britain
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3568
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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