Community and municipalism: collective identity in late-victorian and edwardian mining towns

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Most studies of the municipal movement in late nineteenth-century Britain have necessarily concentrated on the great cities. However, ideas about the nature of the city, urban politics and citizenship formed in the large metropolises had influence outside of them. This paper assesses the influence of municipalism on mining towns in South Wales and Nottinghamshire, particularly in the towns of Ynysybwl and Hucknall. Differences in the acceptance and adoption of municipalism between the two coalfields are related to the relationship between employers and miners, to the character and importance of local intermediate social groups, and to the structure of local institutions. David Smith's idea of the “definition of community” is used to argue that the sense of collective identity was a social construction, and the result of a process of social struggle. In South Wales, this process of “definition of community” resulted in local collective identities which largely excluded the ideas of urbanism which were associated with the muncipal movement. In Nottinghamshire, municipal ideas were more successful. Involvement in local government became an alternative strategy to paternalism and close control of company villages for coalowners in the county. Liberal coalowners such as John Ellis of Hucknall supported, promoted and sponsored local municipalism. The evidence of these contrasting cases calls into question common stereotypes of mining villages found in sociological and historical literature, and points to the contingent ideological influence of municipalism beyond the great cities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-270
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1991

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