Victorian Cities : Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Melbourne, London Paperback
by Asa Briggs
In 1837, in England and Wales, there were only five provincial cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants.
By 1891 there were twenty-three. Over the same period London's population more than doubled.
In this companion volume to "Victorian People and Victorian Things", Lord Briggs focuses on the cities of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Melbourne (an example of a Victorian community overseas) and London, comparing and contrasting their social, political and topographical development.
Full of illuminating detail, "Victorian Cities" presents a unique social, political and economic bird's-eye view of the past.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 27/09/1990
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780140135824
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Review by jcbrunner
This volume about Victorian cities is part of a trilogy about the Victorian age. I haven't read nor intend to read the other volumes about Victorian people and Victorian things, so I can't comment on the interplay of these volumes. This book is a largely self-contained collection of case studies about a number of growing Victorian cities, namely Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Melbourne and London. A few words of explanation why these (and not others such as Edinburgh or Calcutta) might have been helpful. While its focus on Northern England played a strong element in my selecting it, a more holistic approach would have been more suitable to its all encompassing title.The author captures the civic spirit of the Victorian age well: An age of both misery and progress, of greed and public mindedness, of technological advance amidst continuity. From an urban planning perspective, the Victorian age pioneered and built majestic town halls, public parks, libraries and museums. Most importantly, it tackled for the first time the problems of sewage and started public transportation as well as public housing. The new economic prosperity led to a demographic burst whose housing demands could not be met by the existing infrastructure. The demographic shift and increased range of activities necessitated the development of civic institutions - which differed locally: Birmingham chose a more cooperative approach, Manchester a more adversarial one. London became the first global mega city. I'd be interested to read a companion study of how the Northern cities (and their infrastructure) reacted to the destruction of their industrial engines during the 20th century.