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

Connell, Kieran (2012). A micro-history of 'black Handsworth': towards a social history of race in Britain. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/3568


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