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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 13: The City •

The City

Book cover: Urban Governance: Britain and Beyond since 1750

R. H. Trainor's response


Urban Governance: Britain and Beyond since 1750

ed. R. J. Morris and R. H. Trainor
Ashgate, 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-0015-2; 268 pages, price £60.00

Barry Doyle

University of Teeside

This brief reply to Barry Doyle's nuanced, but largely positive, review of Urban Governance complements the response of my co-editor, Bob Morris.

I would like to emphasise that, while (as Doyle observes) the essays in the book have most to say about the 19th century, the provinces and local government, Urban Governancehas a broader and more balanced remit. The book's general essays are as much concerned with the 20th century as with the 19th. For example, my own contribution (accurately summarised by Doyle), has much to say about the post-1900 period, taking a largely positive line which sits uneasily beside Doyle's impression (referring to the book as a whole) of 'a golden age of urban governance which gradually gave way first to the steadily encroaching central state before the contemporary return to a form of "bastard" urban governance'. Similarly, the introduction indicates the book's intention to set municipal activity in the context of the mechanisms and ethos of other spheres - some public (like the Poor Law), some private (such as philanthropy or professional self-regulation) - which also affected the balance of power, and the contours of advantage and disadvantage, in towns and cities. From this broad perspective, concern with industrial relations or with medical societies is central rather than peripheral to governance. Indeed, understanding the relationships among the many spheres of influential urban activity is crucial to the success of such analysis.

Yet neither in this respect - nor, as Doyle rightly observes - in terms of its coverage of London is the volume comprehensive. It does not pretend to be. Rather, Urban Governance is primarily intended as a stimulus to further research in the field - a mission which has been assisted by Doyle's perceptive review. As Morris suggests, the re-established vitality of British urban history should be equal to the challenge.

March 2001

R. J. Morris's response

Original review

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