Governance and locality in the age of reform: Birmingham 1769 - 1852

Taylor, Donna (2019). Governance and locality in the age of reform: Birmingham 1769 - 1852. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines the development of Birmingham’s local administration from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, a period of intense reform policy in Britain. It presents an in-depth appraisal of processes that promulgated administrative change during a crucial period of the town’s development. There has been a tendency in current literature to present Birmingham in this period as a badly managed town, governed by disparate, self-elected bodies. The research presented here challenges that perspective through a close analysis of Birmingham’s administrations both pre-and post- the 1835 Municipal Reform Act. Under this legislation Birmingham was able to attain a Charter of Incorporation, with its first town council elected in 1838. The move to corporation status was badly managed, at a national and local level. As a result, the new administration was not well received, and the first years of its existence were blighted by uncertainty and opposition which, on occasion, descended into riot. Nevertheless, the new administrative system prevailed, and made achievements which current literature has failed to fully acknowledge. Birmingham’s administrative reform has been set here in the context of heightened political tensions in Britain, to understand the complex, often intense, relationships between public, local governance and national legislation.

The thesis offers fresh, overlooked examples of town planning and actual achievements in Birmingham, gleaned from a thorough investigation of half a century’s worth of administrative documentation. These are presented alongside public responses to both local and national reform issues to give a more comprehensive insight into Birmingham’s pre-Chamberlain governance than is currently available. The research presented here also opens the potential for further exploration of the way in which the so-called Age of Reform played out in Britain’s burgeoning urban centres in the wake of Industrial Revolution. This is set in a context of change and continuity, challenging still prevalent notions of civic progress. As devolution has become an aspiration for many twenty-first century local administrations, it is useful to look back and understand past attempts at civic reform.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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